Jump to content

Miracle in Milan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Miracle in Milan
Theatrical release poster
Directed byVittorio De Sica
Screenplay byCesare Zavattini
Vittorio De Sica
Suso Cecchi d'Amico
Mario Chiari
Adolfo Franci
Story byCesare Zavattini
Produced byVittorio De Sica
StarringEmma Gramatica
Francesco Golisano
CinematographyAldo Graziati
Edited byEraldo Da Roma
Music byAlessandro Cicognini
Distributed byJoseph Burstyn Inc. (US)
Criterion Collection (DVD)
Release date
  • February 8, 1951 (1951-02-08) (Italy)
Running time
100 minutes

Miracle in Milan (Italian: Miracolo a Milano) is a 1951 Italian fantasy comedy film directed by Vittorio De Sica.[1] The screenplay was co-written by Cesare Zavattini, based on his novel Totò il Buono. The picture stars Francesco Golisano, Emma Gramatica, Paolo Stoppa, and Guglielmo Barnabò.[2][3]

The film, told as a neo-realist fable, explains the lives of a poverty-stricken group in post-war Milan, Italy. In 2008, the film was included on the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage’s 100 Italian films to be saved, a list of 100 films that "have changed the collective memory of the country between 1942 and 1978."[4]



This fantasy tale recounts the story of Totò, discovered as a baby in a cabbage patch and subsequently adopted by Lolotta, a wise and kind old woman. Upon Lolotta's demise, Totò finds himself relocated to an orphanage. Upon reaching adulthood, Totò (Francesco Golisano), departs the orphanage and settles in a shantytown squatter colony on the outskirts of Milan.[5]

Totò's organizational skills, honed during his time at the orphanage, and his inherent kindness and optimistic outlook inherited from Lolotta, bring order and a sense of well-being to the colony's inhabitants. Despite their dispossessed status, Totò fosters happiness among the residents. Two businessmen, including Mobbi, purchase the land, allowing the squatters to continue residing there.

During a festival, as the squatters dig a hole for a maypole, oil is unexpectedly discovered beneath the colony. Mistaking it for water, the squatters are unaware of its true nature until Mobbi, informed by the scheming squatter Rappi, attempts to evict them using a police force.

Amidst this crisis, Totò receives a magical dove from the ghost of Lolotta, endowed with the power to grant wishes. The camp undergoes a surreal transformation as secret wishes are fulfilled. However, when two angels reclaim the dove, protesting a mortal's use of its magic, the camp loses its protection.

Subsequently, the police overrun the camp, and its inhabitants are arrested and taken away in police wagons. Totò's sweetheart, Edvige, replaces the magical dove with an ordinary one, allowing Totò to wish for the freedom of his friends. Through Totò's genuine faith, the police wagons disintegrate, and the squatters soar away on broomsticks taken from Milan's central square.

Circling the Cathedral, they eventually depart "towards a land where 'good morning really means good morning'."

The final scene, the escape by broomstick.





The film's principal location was waste ground, near Milan's Lambrate railway station.

Vittorio De Sica wrote that he made the film in order to show how the "common man" can exist given the realities of life: "It is true that my people have already attained happiness after their own fashion; precisely because they are destitute, these people still feel - as the majority of ordinary men perhaps no longer do - the living warmth of a ray of winter sunshine, the simple poetry of the wind. They greet water with the same pure joy as Saint Francis did."[6]

The Milan Cathedral serves as a focal location in the film, and can also be viewed as symbolic of the miracle to which the film's title refers.[7]

American special effects specialist Ned Mann was hired for the film. The picture would be Mann's final project.[8] Vittorio De Sica, in neo-realist fashion, used both professional and non-professional actors.[9][10]



Critical response


The film premiered in Italy on 8 February 1951. Later it was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in April 1951. In the United States it opened wide on December 17, 1951.

Bosley Crowther, film critic for The New York Times, liked the film and wrote, "The rich vein of sly, compassionate humor that Charlie Chaplin and René Clair used to mine with unparalleled genius when they were turning out their best satiric films, has been tapped by Vittorio De Sica in his Miracle in Milan, the widely proclaimed Italian picture that arrived at the World yesterday. And although this uncommon vein of fancy is away from De Sica's previous line, the great director has brought up from his digging a liberal return of purest gold."[11] The film ranked 3rd on Cahiers du Cinéma's Top 10 Films of the Year List in 1951.[12]

The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a positive review and wrote, "The sharp satire on the oil-greedy industrialist is handled in a broader, perhaps exaggerated manner, and pic is liberally sprinkled with intelligent humor, much of it ironic. Performances by pros and tyros alike are flawless."[13]

Review website Rotten Tomatoes reports the film has a rare 100% "Fresh" rating. In April 2019, a restored version of the film was selected to be shown in the Cannes Classics section at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.[14]






  1. ^ "Everyday miracles". Alternate Ending. 13 September 2016.
  2. ^ Miracle in Milan at IMDb.
  3. ^ "Overview". TCM. 2005.
  4. ^ "Ecco i cento film italiani da salvare Corriere della Sera". www.corriere.it. Retrieved 2021-03-11.
  5. ^ "Miracolo a Milano (Miracle In Milan) (1951)". Vernonjohns. 2017. Archived from the original on February 23, 2007.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ De Sica, Vittorio Miracle in Milan, 1968, Baltimore, Maryland: Pelican Books, p11
  7. ^ Schneider, Rolf (2004). Manfred Leier (ed.). 100 most beautiful cathedrals of the world: A journey through five continents. trans. from German by Susan Ghanouni and Rae Walter. Edison, New Jersey: Chartwell Books. p. 11.
  8. ^ Ned Mann at the Internet Movie Database.
  9. ^ "Italian Neorealism, Films of Renown: Miracle in Milan". 2007-04-18. Archived from the original on 18 April 2007. at in black and white.
  10. ^ Joseph Sgammato (February 2020). "The Flipside of Neorealism: Miracle in Milan (Vittorio De Sica, 1951)". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original on 10 February 2020. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  11. ^ Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, December 18, 1951. Last accessed: January 26, 2008.
  12. ^ Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". alumnus.caltech.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  13. ^ Variety. Film review, 1951. Last accessed: May 30, 2013.
  14. ^ "Cannes Classics 2019". Festival de Cannes. 26 April 2019. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Miracle in Milan". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-01-13.