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|Index||27 reviews in total|
I discovered this movie about ten years ago, on TV. The next day, a co-worker asked if I had watched it; I said yes, and we both agreed we had been moved by it. For my co-worker, this was not surprising; she was a Catholic. But for me, a Jewish semi-secular humanist, it was odd to admit I had felt something close to faith because of a late-40s studio picture. The message of "The Miracle of the Bells" is that regardless of one's faith, there is the possibility of hope. The goodness that exists in human beings is not brought out by rigid observance to rules, but by acts of kindness and understanding. I don't want to say how this comes about or whether there really is a miracle in the Biblical sense. That is for viewers to find out. But the film brings tears to my eyes. Alida Valli is amazing-watch her face, her eyes, especially in the sequences where she plays Joan of Arc-she seems lit from within by faith. I love the scene in the Chinese restaurant, a scene of friendship and love. I wish this movie, like its heroine, was more well-known. I try to help it along by mentioning it whenever I can as one of those little gems, a quiet picture that may make you think, a nice example of Hollywood fantasy films of the 1940s, and a movie that will help you feel better if you feel down.I know I just rented it for that reason.
A film I had never seen before, and it is highly recommended for all those who believe in faith and miracles. A Hollywood press agent, Fred MacMurray, inspires a new actress to attain higher goals in movies; she is played by Valli, who underplays her role with much emotion. Lee J. Cobb plays the tough producer and director. She dies just before the film ends, so the film is shelved by the money men. But this press agent believes in her and goes back to her hometown of Coaltown, PA where there are only a few old churches. One of them is Catholic, and Frank Sinatra plays the Catholic priest, who the press agent tries to get him and all the other pastors and ministers of the other churches to ring their bells constantly at her funeral. The day comes and the Catholic Church is loaded with townspeople who witness angelic sculptures in the pulpit turning to look at the body of the actress, and causing a national stir of publicity. All of this causes the producer director to come to terms and release the film publicly. But there is more involved in this film because it shows how sincerely faith of any kind can cause miracles to happen. I found this film to be highly entertaining and highly underrated for the period of time it was made in 1948
Maltin's "guide", which should be called a "MIS-Guide", oh so generously
bestows this film with a whopping star and a half. The truth is this is a
fine piece of film-making, a tad unwieldy at times and perhaps 20 minutes
overlong, but made with a high level of care and craft. There are many
moving, poignant scenes, particularly one set early on at Christmas time.
MacMurray and Valli unexpectedly run into each other and proceed to share a
relaxed and blissfully unrehearsed Christmas Eve dinner at a Chinese
restaurant that they have all to themselves (not unlike in the more recent A
Christmas Story). The chemistry between the two and the restaurant's
benevolent Asian owner is nearly heavenly.
The film has that irresistible Citizen Kane-ish structure where a character is gradually revealed and only truly understood AFTER their death. It also is refreshing in its positive depiction of religion and the important role it plays in so many people's lives. And it does so without insulting those in the audience who may not happen to be a member of that faith (Catholicism) or suggest that because they are not, that they're going to hell. If only more of today's film-makers had such courage and insight.
Performance-wise I was most impressed with Fred MacMurray who clearly invested a lot emotionally in his character. Valli is fine as the angelic aspiring actress and Lee J. Cobb is commanding as always as a studio mogul with more integrity than one might expect. Frank Sinatra as a devout small town priest? He's not bad but he hadn't yet been influenced by Montgomery Clift's method acting style in From Here To Eternity, and he comes across as a mite green for the part.
Quality work. Maltin's off by a star or two once again.
"The Miracle of the Bells" is a gem of a movie. It is Fred MacMurray's best
role and best movie. He plays a burned-out publicist, who helps an aspiring
actress attain (Alida Valli) a movie role, watches her die, then travels
with her body to her hometown. He covers all the emotions in this movie:
toughness, worldliness, anger, kindness, love, contempt, and
This is Ms. Valli's second best role and movie. The first was "The Third Man". Frank Sinatra plays the priest and this is his first dramatic part. He is very good in the role. He even sings a little.
It is a lovely movie about dreams and miracles.
What a sweet and well-meaning movie this is. It's about love and respect for
family and background and wanting to make a lasting mark on the shifting
sands of our world.
The movie is not perfect, of course, it could have been shorter and not suffered much for it. The points seem belabored during the last half hour. Fred MacMurray saying "baby" all the time to Olga, the female lead was a little off-putting. Not so much for the word itself, it just seemed un-natural to hear him say it.
All that said, I will reiterate that this is a sweet movie. There is a great Christmas scene that will forever make me think of this as a "Christmas Movie". Philip Ahn as the Chinese retaurateur was a beam of light and gentleness in this movie. His role was a stand-out.
Frank Sinatra was to have better roles in later years and his acting technique would develop. He is slightly lost in the role here. But that is no big sleight in this movie.
Recommended. Religious but not preachy, sweet but not sickly sweet. A nice movie for cold Christmas eves.
Looking back to favorite movies, I never realized what a fan I was of Fred
MacMurray. This is another film of his I liked alot. Comedy, action, or
drama, Fred gets the job done.
It gets 'laid on' pretty thick in this drama, schmaultzy comes to mind, but it's one to see. There were a string of 'miracle' movies made around this time, but 'Miracle of the Bells' lets you decide for yourself about this miracle, and there is more than just the obvious one.
You will get to see a movie in a movie, the reformation of MacMurray's publicist character, and even Frank Sinatra as a priest. I can think of worse ways to spend a lazy afternoon. See it if you can....
If you get a chance check out the post I left on Helen Burgess's page
on this site. Helen Burgess was a young contract player for Paramount
who made four films. One of them was Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman
where she played the second lead female role as Louisa Frederici Cody
under Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, and James Ellison. She died of
pneumonia at the age of 19 as the film was being released. This would
have been a breakout role for her and she might have had a long screen
I'm sure that the creators of this film had Helen Burgess in mind when they made it. It's good in spots, I like the performances of Fred MacMurray, Alida Valli, Lee J. Cobb and Philip Ahn which another reviewer very correctly singled out.
I guess since Bing Crosby made such a hit as a priest Frank Sinatra had to try it. He lays one big omelet as Father Paul. He had to wait until Meet Danny Wilson for a part he could carry on acting as well as singing.
This film was also made in the days of John L. Lewis as head of the United Mine Workers. One of the big issues for that union was the pollution that caused the premature deaths of a lot of their members and families. In that sense Miracle of the Bells was a very socially relevant movie for its time and even today.
Having viewed Miracle of the Bells at least 20 times, I still get inspired by its central theme, that the world is a good place and we can each make it a little better. What many "Bells" viewers might not know is that the (Alida) Vali role is based on a historical person named Olga Treskovna who came from Northeastern Pennsylvania. Some exteriors and rear-screen projection scenes were shot in and around Glen Lyon and Nanticoke, PA (where much of the action takes place). The real Olga Treskovna is buried in St. Michael's Cemetery (of course the Parish cemetery of St. Michael's Church which has recently been razed.) The real statue of St. Michael, however, is at this writing still in the church yard. After more than half a century, it's still an inspirational movie with great performances from Lee J. Cobb, Fred Mac Murray and Vali despite several warts of weak acting here and there by others.
A wonderful movie. Should be seen by all who seek inspiration. Alida Valley should have been nominated for an Academy Award. Fred Mac Murray and Frank Sinatra were wonderful. I didn't know that Sinatra acted when he was so young. I found it interesting how he was dwarfed by the size of Fred Mac Murray. I saw the colorized version, which was very nice. The photography was enchanting. After you watch it, read the Wikipedia article on Joan of Arc. A true saint. I have seen a recent movie about Joan of Arc and enjoyed it also. Movies can be very inspirational, especially when people are going through hard times. I would love to see more categorized that way.
Considered a box office dud and much maligned over the years, this is quite an entertaining film about the movies, religion, love and lots of other things! The entire cast is superb, even Sinatra in a very sweet role as a priest. I wonder why Valli didn't become a bigger star! Maybe she was too similar to Ingrid Bergman with not quite enough charisma. She's quite good in this and it's a far cry from her work in Dario Argento's Suspiria! All in all, a fine film!
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