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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 <email@example.com>
Roland Young was a stage star in the 1920s and early 1930s. To us, he usually played an impeccable gentleman, usually of diffident, uncertain, and shy personality, but occasionally showing a roguish personality (as "Uncle Willy" in THE PHILADELPHIA STORY) or an unscrupulous, villainous one (as "Uriah Heep" in David COPPERFIELD) or even a murderous one (as in the killer in THE GREAT LOVER). His best remembered starring part was as the spooked banker "Cosmo Topper" in three movies, but his best performance may well have been as "George Fotheringay" in this film, THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES. In this film he was the average little man - the man in the street, if you will, who is given extraordinary powers by the Gods and proceeds to demonstrate how human beings cannot handle great power.
H. G. Wells' amusing fantasy shows how power without wisdom or control is never a safe commodity. Young is the sort of person we meet everyday. He is harmless. He is acceptable. He is forgettable. In short he is one of us. He is unable to even make a dent with a girl he's interested in (Joan Gardner). But once he gets power, he can't succeed in doing much with it. He is able to frighten some friends in a pub, during a philosophical chat. He can cause personal amusement and enjoyment in his room, but it does annoy the landlady (particularly all of the animals he now has for pets). He tries to find a fast way of ending poverty by creating money out of the air - much to the dismay of the local banker (Laurence Hanray). He tries to rid the world of weapons, much to the anger of the local military man (Ralph Richardson, in heavy make-up). Richardson is also annoyed that his liquor is now juice or cider. In the end, stalked by Richardson and the others who find more to fear than to accept in Young's sudden powers, Young decides he has to protect himself. He makes himself master of the world, but when he decides to show himself as the center of the universe by stopping the earth's rotation, he nearly destroys the earth. Only sheer accident prevents total disaster.
The film is not flawless. When Young makes himself world dictator he tells off the rulers of the world (whom he has brought together at his new court) that they like the furs and feathers they wear. This is typical of Wells - he always thinks that the finery and trappings of power are the goals of powerful people, and not a side issue. It is even pushed to extremes in his other scripted film, THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME, when Ralph Richardson (as "the Boss") wears a costume of furs and feathers. Young also lacks real imagination, which is an odd lapse for Wells. His "common man" heroes, like Mr. Polly, do have a degree of imagination. Fotheringay's idea of economic curing is to wave his hand and out pops a ten pound note (to the dismay of the banker, who starts talking about inflation!). But he could do it on the sly, passing flawless cash around by mail without any problems. He's just not swift enough to do it quietly.
But that is a minor quibble. The film is (on the whole) a joy as fantasy and as a field day for Roland Young. I give it a 10 as an example of exciting cinema.
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