The Miracle Man (1932 film)

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The Miracle Man
Film poster
Directed by Norman Z. McLeod
Written by George M. Cohan
Robert Hobart Davis
Samuel Hoffenstein
Frank L. Packard
Waldemar Young
Starring Sylvia Sidney
Chester Morris
Cinematography David Abel
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s)
  • April 1, 1932 (1932-04-01)
Running time 85 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Miracle Man is a 1932 American drama film directed by Norman Z. McLeod, starring Sylvia Sidney and featuring Boris Karloff. It is a remake of the 1919 film of the same name. The film was originally supposed to star Tyrone Power Sr, as the Preacher/Patriarch, but he died before major filming got underway. His part was then completed by Hobart Bosworth.

Ned Sparks and Chester Morris



The film starts in Chinatown. Harry Evans (Ned Sparks) is a pickpocket, and he passes the Frog (John Wray), who is pretending to be a cripple. Harry gives the Frog a watch, which he just stole from a man. The Frog, who crawls, is almost hit by a car. The guests on the car are guests traveling to Chinatown for New Year's, and some give money to the Frog, convinced he is hurt. After while a young woman, Helen (Sylvia Sidney) is given a seat by a gentleman. She then tries to pick money out of this man's pocket, and she flees with the money, and he soon catches up to her. In tears, she tells him that her mother has died, and she has no money, he then contributes a few dollars, and soon the public, watching, gives her money. She returns to the apartment later that night, and is visited by friends; the Frog, and Harry Evans. As they start counting money, the door opens, outside of it, is leader Doc Madison (Chester Morris), who was the man who Helen tried taking money from, as a scheme.

The gang counts their money, but soon stop after a knock on the door. The Frog and Harry both hide inside the kitchen, as Helen gets the door. Standing in it is Nikko, their landlord (Boris Karloff), there to claim money. He tries hitting on Helen and she soon leaves the room to change her clothes. Nikko is forced to take money by an angry Madison, who leaves.. Once Nikko is alone in the room, Nikko looks through the keyhole, and tries watching Helen undress. After Madison catches him, he beats him up, and throws him down the stairs. A woman, after seeing this, calls for the police, forcing Madison to leave the apartment as well as the town.

Madison enters the town of Meadville, by train, and is helped to find the hotel by a young lad. After talking to the postmaster, he hears of an old man who lives alone and who can cure by faith. Madison goes up to visit him, and finds him quite friendly and he writes to Helen about a plan. Soon he sends for Harry Evans, to talk to him of his plans, after forcing Evans to give back a watch he stole from Mr. Higgins, the postmaster. The two talk of plans to have the Frog pretend to be cured.

Evans falls for Mr. Higgins' daughter, there they step out to find a man with no faith. The man returns home with his crippled son, and there, he tells the Kid not to believe in God.

Helen comes the Meadville, and meets up with Madison, and once alone, he makes her take all the makeup off so she can pose as the patriarch's grandniece. They meet up with the patriarch, who invites her to live there, and she takes him up on it.

Soon The Frog, now shaved, unlike his hideous unshaved face, and a nice pair of clothes, meets up with Harry Evans, a woman in a wheelchair, Margaret, and her brother, Robert Thornton. The Frog tells them of the patriarch (the faith healer) and although Robert has no faith, Margaret would rather see the patriarch.

The four travel in Thornton's car, after he decides to test the patriarch. Once in Meadville, as Doc Madison watches, the Frog climbs out of the car and cries for someone to help him, and he is helped by a crippled Boy, who was the one whose father doesn't believe. The boy helps the Frog crawl to the patriarch's home, gathering the entire crowd to watch.

They meet up with the patriarch, and he crawls to him, and is "cured". The crippled boy is then genuinely cured, and then Margaret is. Doc Madison, now angry, goes into the house and meets up with Helen, who is surprised he could heal them, and the two step outside in time to hear the patriarch quote the Bible, "Are not two sparrows sold for a pound? Yet one shall not fall to the ground apart from your Father" (Matthew 10:29). The cured boy goes home and shows his father, and soon he believes in God, after being surprised and in tears.

Te Madison gang becomes rich on a scheme to build a chapel for the patriarch (who is not in on the plan). Slowly the group disbands, starting with Harry, who is in love with Higgins' daughter. The Frog, now named Michael, acts like a son to the patriarch, taking care of him. Doc is soon jealous of Thornton, as Helen is attracted to him.

One night, while Helen is out with Thornton, Doc talks to the Frog inside the house, and he punches him in the face once he mentions Helen's name. The next day, Doc leaves the house and finds that the patriarch's guests are leaving. Doc asks the Frog about Helen, but the Frog will not speak. Doc forces him, nearly breaking his arm, and learns about Thornton and Helen.

That night, Helen, after meeting with the patriarch, who praises her as a good girl, goes outside, upset. She is approached by the Frog, and the two talk about the patriarch, and the Frog tells her she is only "socking herself in the chin", and he leaves to go inside. Madison confronts Helen with her affection for Thornton, and he nearly attacks her, but the silhouette of the patriarch stands up from a chair, forcing Madison to leave her alone, by herself, crying.

The next day the Frog is at a farm, milking a cow and is talked to by Harry. Soon, out at the shore, Madison is watching, as Helen is on the yacht with Thornton. That night Doc approaches Helen, and is once again about to attack her, but Harry enters the room with the Frog. The gang tell him they want nothing to do with Madison's plan, and he tells them he will leave immediately, leaving Helen heartbroken, as he leaves the room.

As Madison gets ready for leaving the town, Thornton stops him, as he tries giving him a check, Madison tells him Helen takes the checks, but Thornton says he will not be seeing Helen, as she broke up with him last night at a storm, and tells him she is in love with him.

The patriarch is soon dying, and he calls Helen, and asks where Madison is, but she tells him he is gone, and the patriarch asks for the others (Harry and The Frog) and they approach him. The patriarch tells them he was on to them being con artists, and he knew all along. He says he must wait for John (an assumed name Madison gave himself), and this depresses Helen. Soon Madison, now wanting to get Helen, returns and he hears the patriarch's words, and the patriarch dies, leaving the two able to marry.

History and reception[edit]

This film had a mixed but mostly poor reception. It was the remake of the lost 1919 Lon Chaney film. This film used the same plot as the 1914 stage play from 1914 by George M. Cohan which was not a hit. The film was expected to be a big hit being the remake of a film that made Chaney a star and some passed John Wray (The Frog) off as "the new Lon Chaney".

Gail Kane, who Played Helen in the original Broadway play by Cohan, is the Woman in the Photograph of The Patriarch's sister

Lon Chaney Biographer Michael F. Blake has seen this film back in the 1980s. The film was screened publicly back in 2008, twice.

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