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The Miracle Woman

(1931 b 90')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Frank Capra directed this story of an evangelist similar to the contemporary Aimee Semple McPherson.

A preface suggests the film is a warning to viewers about "false prophets" who use religion to gain gold. Florence Fallon (Barbara Stanwyck) reads her father's last sermon to the congregation that fired him, informing them he just died without enough money for a funeral. She accuses them of killing him and preaches against the hypocrites, as the people walk out. Bob Hornsby (Sam Hardy) offers to help her get even, because he has no convictions but can sell religion.

John Carson (David Manners) was blinded in the world war. After having his songs rejected by publishers from A to Z, he writes a suicide note and is about to jump out the window when the radio sermon of Florence inspires him to change his mind. In the Temple of Faith a large choir sings "Over There." Florence preaches from a cage of lions, and John has the faith to join her. She has everyone "join hands, smile, and love." Hornsby berates his employees for not acting their parts well, and Florence complains that the fakes affect her performance. Hornsby has to pay off the politicians. Welford says that he is collecting more money from homes since they stopped handling money at the tabernacle.

Florence gives John a ride home in the rain. Mrs. Higgins brings in the bust of Florence he ordered in order "to see" what she looks like. He shows off his ventriloquist act and tells her that he wants to work for her without pay; the dummy can say things he is too shy to utter. He tells her she saved his life, and she asks him to compose hymns. Then Florence goes to Hornsby's party, where Welford complains that Hornsby and her get 80%, leaving only 20% for him and his chiselers. He threatens to expose them and asks for a third. Newspapers report he was found dead. Hornsby wants to move on, but Florence wants to get rid of the shills. She rejects his kiss, and he takes her keys. Florence celebrates her birthday with John, and they hug and kiss. Hornsby put out that she is going to the holy land, but he gives her the choice of Europe or jail for fraud and murder. Florence says good-bye to John and confesses she is a fake, but he loves her. Before her farewell sermon John tries to pretend he can see but does not fool her. Florence tells Hornsby it's over; he hits John. She announces she is a sinner, and Hornsby cuts off the lights, causing a fire and panic. She calms people and gets them singing as the tabernacle burns. In the final scene Hornsby is berating his boxer, and Florence is working for the Salvation Army.

This story shows how evangelists can exploit people for money while inspiring many of them. In desperation John finds faith and a friend, while Florence realizes she has to get away from the fraud.

Copyright © 1999 by Sanderson Beck

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