Classic Film Guide

Miracle in the Rain (1956) - full review!

It's a sappy, dated, sexless romance drama with a fantasy element set during World War II that features a credible performance by Jane Wyman (The Blue Veil (1951)), a typical squeaky clean all-American soldier character from Van Johnson, and an adequate supporting cast that includes Fred Clark, Eileen Heckart, Josephine Hutchinson, William Gargan (his last film), Paul Picerni as a Catholic priest, and Arte Johnson (making an inauspicious film debut as an office worker that follows the war) among others, but too many other seemingly unnecessary subplot elements (one with Alan King's character) which make it too long and less than satisfying. It begins much like The Clock (1945), but the aforementioned (titled) ending fantasy sequence which is integral to the story, feels tacked on as do several other plot-lines which aren't needed; the film could have, indeed should have been 20 minutes shorter. Directed by Rudolph Maté, a four time Academy Award nominee for cinematography, and written by Ben Hecht (Angels Over Broadway (1940)), it begs the question "is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?".

Ruth Wood (Wyman) is a secretary in a New York city shoe business run by a womanizing married man (played by Clark; another unneeded storyline) that doesn't bother her; Heckart plays Grace, Ruth's "old maid" co-worker and (only?) friend. Ruth lives with, and looks after, her mother Agnes (Hutchinson), who was abandoned by her husband, Ruth's father Harry (Gargan) many years before; he'd had an affair, and not returned home after confessing the act over the telephone. Hence, Ruth has never dated and she seems perfectly at ease with her uncomplicated life; she's never cared so she's not lonely. But all that changes one day when she meets a soldier on leave that kindly helps her with her groceries in the rain and then practically invites himself to a home cooked meal with Ruth and her mother at their simple apartment. Private Arthur Hugenon (Johnson) is lonely, but his outgoing personality quickly wins over Ruth even though mother Agnes remains suspicious of his innocent motives.

Naturally, Ruth falls in love with Art (their courtship is brief, but still spans several weeks) and he proposes just as he's being shipped off to the war front. Of course, he's killed and she's left with an emptiness and despair that wouldn't have been possible previously. While mourning Art's loss, she ventures into a church and takes pity on a statue of Saint Andrew (she proclaims "he's all alone in the dark"), and begins a routine of regularly lighting candles for it. The cough Ruth's been fighting develops into pneumonia, but she wakes up one night and ventures through the rain to the cathedral where a ghostlike Art returns to her briefly, and the two share a final moment of "love" before she collapses and has to be picked up and brought into the church by the Priest, who's then joined by Grace. Moments earlier, Ruth's father had finally returned to beg forgiveness from her grateful mother, who'd always kept a figurative candle burning in her heart for him. Harry had heard a song he'd composed, with lyrics written by Art (and an Army buddy) played on the radio, so he'd come back to ask Agnes about it.

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