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Francis L. Sullivan
In 1917, three shepherd children living just outside Fatima, Portugal have visions of a lovely lady in a cloud. The anticlerical government wishes to squelch the Church; reports of religious experiences are cause for serious concern. Yet the children stand by their story, and the message of peace and hope the Lady brings. In the last vision, attended by thousands of people, the Lady proves her reality with a spectacular miracle that is seen by everyone present. Based on actual events at Fatima in the summer of 1917. Written by
Molly Malloy <email@example.com>
Although the religious aspects of The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima story stuck pretty much to the established story, the political dynamics were tailored very much for the Cold War. It was a case of a lot of mutual needs being met.
In 1910 the Braganza-Coburg dynasty was overthrown in a revolution which plunged Portugal into a great deal of political turmoil until Antonio Salazar took power in 1926. The revolution that threw out the monarchy was anti-clerical in nature, that is true enough, but it was hardly the nascent Marxist state that is depicted in The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima. That was done to meet Cold War needs.
The Roman Catholic Church under Pius XII and Antonio Salazar's Portugese state were staunchly anti-Communists. Portugal, neutral in World War II was now a member of NATO. It was under Salazar who was a former Seminarian and religious Catholic that the Fatima legend was spread and tourism to the site of Fatima was encouraged and the story really took off from there. The film helped the Salazar regime and most assuredly encouraged Portugese tourism.
But as to the story itself, if we believe it, like Bernadette of Soubirous, three pious Catholic youths, a brother and sister and their cousin were given a vision of the blessed Virgin Mary and an insight into what the future holds for God's creations on this planet. And on October 13, 1917 a sign was given from the heaven's themselves to confirm the truth of the children's story.
The three children, Sammy Ogg, Sherry Jackson, and Susan Whitney give deeply felt and sincere performances. Frank Silvera plays the administrator of the town and a sinister individual indeed, personifying the anti-clerical regime of the time. The skeptical folks of the time is personified by Gilbert Roland, friend of the children who is not a person of faith by any means, but the protector of the kids when they need one.
Roland is one of my favorite character actors from the golden age of the cinema. He has enough cheerful Latin charm for a dozen people and he's never boring in any film. He's reason enough to watch the film even if you are skeptical in matters of faith.
The younger two children played by Ogg and Jackson died during the great influenza epidemic post World War I. Susan Whitney's character Lucia Dos Santos became a nun and was revered as a living saint in the Roman Catholic community until her death at the ripe old age of 97 just a few years ago. Whitney's performance though good was hardly rewarded with an Oscar the way Jennifer Jones's was for playing St. Bernadette. The Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima did in fact get one Oscar nomination, one of several Max Steiner got for his musical score.
In 2001 I was touring Portugal and visited Fatima. A place more isolated and remote you can hardly imagine. But other than the giant cathedral there, pictured at the end of the film, and the various little shops selling religious articles, the place has kept the character of what it was in 1917. No one is going to put up a Fatima Hilton there, it would ruin the place altogether.
For Roman Catholics the film is a matter of faith. For film fans it's not a bad telling of a strange and beautiful story.
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