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George McWhirter Fotheringay, while vigorously asserting the impossibility of miracles, suddenly discovers that he can perform them. After being thrown out of a bar for what is thought to be a trick, he tests his powers and eventually sends a policeman to Hades by accident. Worried, he sends the police officer to San Francisco, and seeks advice from the local clergyman, Mr Maydig. Maydig, after having Fotheringay's powers demonstrated to him, quickly planning for reform of the world by means of miracle, but eventually Fotheringay orders a miracle which, due to clumsy wording, backfires. He relinquishes his power and returns to the time before he had it. Written by
Anthony Pereyra <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Man Who Could Work Miracles has its start in the heavens where some Greek God like creatures are roaming among the stars, one of them played by an as yet unknown George Sanders. Apparently H.G. Wells's idea of a Deity was closer to the Greeks and Romans than Christianity. In any event these three creatures discuss the happenings on planet earth where a group of puny creatures dominate, but who might start getting into their realm in the heavens in a few generations.
Let's see what they can do if one of them is granted our powers, creation with a mere thought. And with a random selection of a celestial finger it lands on meek little Roland Young as he's entering his local pub.
It takes time for Young to grasp the significance of his gift and this is Wells's most telling comment on the film, the sheer pettiness of the average man. From parlor tricks to trying to improve his love life, Young just can't seem to get it into his head what he can do.
Of course they're others who do think about these things more deeply than young. But I believe what H.G. Wells was trying to say is that even those who see a bigger picture than Young and attempt to use him only see it from a narrow perspective. The former colonel Ralph Richardson thinks of conquest, Edward Chapman thinks in terms of business and commerce, Ernest Thesiger is a dreamy Utopian with a theological background. Even Young sees the flaws in each of their versions of Utopia.
H.G. Wells in his other film that came out around the same time provided the answer by his lights. It was the scientists who should establish the benevolent despotism of the age, they alone have the wisdom to rule all of us. Wells said as much in Things To Come, though I never saw any evidence in the film and in real life that scientists are any better qualified than anyone else. Still that was his view.
The subject of humans being given the Godlike power of creation has been done many times. In a more serious version it was the subject of a classic Star Trek episode with Gary Lockwood being given just that power and in a half hour Twilight Zone episode, a hapless Burgess Meredith was a subject of a similar experiment. Meredith made Young's character look hip and appealing.
Though some might argue that Cosmo Topper was his career screen role, I would hold out that Everyman George William Fotheringay, selected by the Gods to be The Man Who Could Work Miracles is Roland Young's best part. He's such a hapless slob that each and every one of us can identify with. You might think you would know what to do given his power, but when you examine yourself a bit further......................
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