After Florence Fallon's father dies unappreciated in the church where he preached for many years, she becomes embittered and loses faith. She teams up with Horsby, a con man, and performs ... See full summary »

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(as Frank R. Capra)

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(screenplay), (based upon the play "Bless You Sister" by) | 2 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
David Manners ...
John Carson
Sam Hardy ...
Bob Hornsby
Beryl Mercer ...
Russell Hopton ...
Bill Welford
...
Simpson
Eddie Boland ...
Collins
Thelma Hill ...
Gussie
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Storyline

After Florence Fallon's father dies unappreciated in the church where he preached for many years, she becomes embittered and loses faith. She teams up with Horsby, a con man, and performs fake miracles for profit. But the love and trust of a blind man restores her faith in God and her fellow man. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

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Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

Passed
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

7 August 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Mulher Miraculosa  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In a pure "pre-code" moment, we see sister Fallon's chauffeur, Lou, give Horsby "the finger" (out of Horsby's sight) immediately after Horsby warns him about what he must do to keep his job. This scene surely would have been nixed by the Hays Office had the movie been made after 1934. See more »

Goofs

As Florence starts chasing members of the congregation out of the church at the beginning of the film, members of the choir can be seen getting up and walking forward in the direction of the isle (note the young blond woman in the black dress who is first in line). When the scene cuts to a close-up on Florence moving down the isle, we see the choir members still seated in their places. They then get up and file out in the same direction as in the previous shot. See more »

Quotes

Hornsby: Religion is great if you can sell it, no good if you give it away.
See more »

Crazy Credits

"Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing..... Mat. VIII, 15. See more »

Connections

Featured in Barbara Stanwyck: Fire and Desire (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

Onward Christian Soldiers
(1871) (uncredited)
Music by Arthur Sullivan (1871)
Lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould (1865)
Played by the band at a revival meeting
Reprised during the fire and sung by all
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Barbara Stanwyck Scores In Fascinating Film
27 October 2001 | by (Forest Ranch, CA) – See all my reviews

A blind man hopes, in all humility, to serve a famous female evangelist in her ministry, but soon he finds himself falling in love with THE MIRACLE WOMAN.

Columbia Pictures, and young director Frank Capra, had to walk a fine line between the sacred and the profane in this topical feature, and ended up with a solid piece of entertainment. Good production values only serve to underscore the excellent acting in the two leading roles. A balance is maintained between sanctity, sanctimoniousness & sentiment. Contemporary viewers, whether churched or not, should find material here to interest them. It is a shame this fine film has become so obscure.

Barbara Stanwyck dominates & fascinates in the title role, never slipping into caricature or allowing her character to become cardboard. She presents a well rounded portrait of a complicated, lonely female who experiences the pangs & joys of unexpected love. She is careful, though, to keep her portrayal sympathetic - realizing that her character was not entirely fictional - but she is never dull. In fact, watching Stanwyck give an impassioned exhortation from inside a lions' cage has got to be one of the more unique scenes from any film of the 1930's.

As the blind former aviator, David Manners gives one of the finest performances of his career, deftly underplaying his role, while letting just enough of the character's angst show through. He gives us the portrait of a man who doesn't need his eyesight to be a moral hero.

Plump little Beryl Mercer scores as Manners' cheery landlady. Sam Hardy is most convincing as Stanwyck's crooked manager. Charles Middleton portrays a hardhearted Deacon early in the film.

******************************

Stanwyck's character in THE MIRACLE WOMAN is heavily based on the most famous & beloved female evangelist of all time, Aimee Semple McPherson. At the height of her popularity, there was not a movie star in Hollywood who could rival her celebrity.

Born Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy on October 9, 1890 in Ontario, Canada, Sister Aimee was the daughter of a Methodist farmer & a Salvation Army worker mother. Completely uninterested in spiritual things as a girl, this changed when she met & romanced dynamic young Pentecostal missionary Robert Semple. In 1908 she gave her life to both God & Robert and married and moved with him to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong. They both became very ill in China and upon his death from malaria in 1910, his widow relocated to New York City with their infant daughter, Roberta.

In 1912 Sister Aimee married Rhode Island grocery salesman Harold McPherson, but she warned him that the call of God was on her life and if she felt the need to preach, she would have to leave him. Harold agreed, but the marriage didn't last her entry into the revival circuit (a future third marriage also ended in divorce). News of her preaching spread from town to town, and soon Sister Aimee was in demand as an evangelistic speaker. With Roberta & baby son Rolf, she toured in her Gospel Car and became perhaps the first woman to solo drive from coast to coast.

In 1918 Sister Aimee settled in Los Angeles, California, and it remained her headquarters city for the rest of her life. Physically striking as well as intelligent, Sister Aimee was a forceful, charismatic speaker and it did not take her long to gather a large & loyal body of adherents. She built the magnificent Angelus Temple in 1923, and there in its 5,300 seat auditorium she would present her lavish illustrated sermons before the spellbound eyes of her congregation. In 1924 Sister Aimee became the first female to operate her own radio station, which she bought for $25,000. Speaking or broadcasting 22 times a week, and never charging admission, Sister Aimee beat the movies at their own game with her highly entertaining & theatrical services. Stars such as Douglas Fairbanks & Charlie Chaplin regularly attended to marvel at her stage presence.

It is hardly surprising that controversy and even scandal followed such a notable individual. Indeed, at one time she was the subject of 45 separate legal suits. But it is the mystery surrounding her disappearance in 1926 that continues to encourage speculation: while swimming in the Pacific Ocean on May 18, Sister Aimee vanished. The nation mourned her apparent drowning. Thousands converged on the beach at Santa Monica; one diver died & a female follower committed suicide, claiming she wanted to accompany Sister Aimee to Heaven.

But then mysterious ransom notes began appearing at Angelus Temple and the complexion of the story began to change. Finally, on June 23, Sister Aimee suddenly reappeared in Douglas, Arizona, telling a tale of kidnapping & miraculous escape. She said she had been approached on the beach by a distraught couple, desperately wanting her to come pray for their dying child. She was whisked away in a waiting car, but ended up across the border in Mexico, where she was kept tied in a shack and tortured with burning cigarettes. Biding her time, she waited until she was alone, rolled off her cot and cut her bonds on the edge of a metal can lid. Then she stumbled into the Mexican village of Agua Prieta, where she was able to get a taxi to Douglas. This was her story. 50,000 people met her train when it arrived from Arizona.

The faithful adored her all the more, but her enemies whispered about a possible love tryst. The Los Angeles District Attorney charged her before the Grand Jury for corruption of morals by staging a hoax. However, her story could never be proven or disproved, and the perjury case was dismissed for lack of evidence. But who would want her kidnapped? A possible solution is this: Born again bootleggers would broadcast their testimonies at Sister Aimee's radio station, naming the corrupt officials who helped them. This could prove disastrous to any number of men in high positions of authority, and giving Sister Aimee a solid scare might remedy their problem. What is known for sure is that the District Attorney who persecuted her was later imprisoned himself at San Quentin for bribery. Sister Aimee came and prayed for him.

Rebounding stronger than ever, Sister Aimee incorporated the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in 1927, based on the tenets of belief of Jesus Christ as Savior, Baptizer, Healer, and Soon-Coming King. During the 1930's, Sister Aimee was at the height of her influence and fame. In addition to her church services, touring revival crusades and radio station, she operated a Bible school, edited a magazine, wrote books, composed stirring songs and oversaw her denomination of 200 churches.

Her healing ministry came in for much scrutiny, but no one has ever proven that it was faked or phony. Sister Aimee, who spent as long as eight hours after services praying for the sick, was quick to give all the glory to God. And there were undeniable positive results: folks who arrived in ambulances returned home on streetcars.

Sister Aimee's death in Oakland, California, on September 27, 1944, was the tragic result of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. After the funeral in the Angelus Temple, 35,000 mourners passed by her grave in Forest Lawn Cemetery. Her son, Rolf McPherson, assumed leadership of The Foursquare Denomination, which is still strong & vibrant today.

While her lavish lifestyle and oversized personality made Sister Aimee an easy mark for ridicule and even spoofery, it should not be forgotten that she provided hope & comfort to millions of desperate Americans during the darkest days of the Great Depression. That's not a bad legacy.


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