Classic Film Guide

Miracle Woman, The (1931) - full review!

Directed by Frank Capra, this drama is quite a bit darker and less optimistic than the films the director would find success with in future years. The subject matter alone - those that exploit the religious beliefs of others for their own financial gain - is atypical of the (substantially) more American themes for which he would make his mark. John Meehan, along with frequent Capra collaborators Robert Riskin, Jo Swerling, and Dorothy Howell are the credited writers.

Barbara Stanwyck plays Florence Fallon, the daughter of an established preacher who dies. His congregation's attitude is more or less "good riddance". In tears, she is approached by Bob Hornsby (Sam Hardy), a visitor that happened to be sitting in the pews and had heard her impassioned diatribe at the church members. Hornsby's a promoter that thinks he's found someone (in Florence) to use as a rabble rouser of sinners on the radio. With nothing else better to do, she allows him to construct an image for her as 'Faith' Fallon; he then creates a road show complete with faux invalids for her to heal.

David Manners plays John Carson, a war blinded songwriter who can't sell his wares that's inspired not to commit suicide when he hears Faith's radio program one day. He has a maid, Mrs. Higgins (Beryl Mercer) that looks after him. John goes to see Faith's show and, because he's blind, volunteers to join her on stage among some meat-eating lions. Though she learns that John can't see, she is still impressed by his faith. Hornsby has kept Faith out of the public eye except when she's on stage, so she has cabin fever and desperately wants some time to call her own. When John insists on seeing Faith after the show, she begins a friendly relationship with him that fills gaps in both of their lives. She gets to connect with another individual, sharing simple pleasures and his sense of humor at his apartment; he begins to think of her more seriously, as a future wife.

One of Hornsby's employees, Welford (Russell Hopton) decides that Faith and Hornsby are getting too much of the profit and threatens to exposure them. The next day, Welford turns up dead. Hornsby figures the gig is up, that it's time to leave town. Faith decides to come clean to John, who believes only that she's lost faith in herself. So John decides to try to fool her into believing that she's cured his blindness. There's a (not entirely unexpected) climactic, melodramatic, special effects-laden, and even somewhat tragic ending (involving fire) which ironically happens, in part, as the result of an accident.

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