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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948)

Everybody’s at their worst in this piece of religioso-sentimental hokum . . . with Frank Sinatra’s wrong-side-of-the-tracks priest primus inter pares. (Or should that be ultimus inter pares?) Fred MacMurray is dull & painfully earnest as a P.R. guy who spots starry-eyed Alida Valli and winds up pitching her to studio head Lee J. Cobb as a replacement in his big Joan of Arc epic. (Heck, they could have just waited a few months for the Ingrid Bergman flop to come out.) No one seems aware (or is it concerned?) that their new star is sinking fast from a galloping case of T.B., dying soon after the last shot. Why, it’ll take a miracle to get this film released. That really is the plot and, yes, you’re supposed to find it all infinitely touching. Who knows, maybe you will.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Hard as it is to believe, that natural Hollywood cynic, screenwriter Ben Hecht (FRONT PAGE/'31; NOTHING SACRED/'37), not only wrote this, but had a real taste for sentimental miracle stories. His BOOK OF MIRACLES gathers up seven of his own, and a further novel, MIRACLE IN THE RAIN/’56, made an imperfect, but far better pic than this.

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