The Miracle set during the Napoleonic era, in Spain, a young postulant falls in love with a handsome British soldier who is recovering with others of his regiment after being wounded. Before leaving, he asks her to leave the convent and marry him. The postulant, devoted to the statue of the Virgin Mary, asks her for a heavenly sign and leaves when nothing happens. Then the statue of the Virgin descends from its pedestal.
Those who are hard-bitten, unsentimental, hate religious epics, or laugh easily at ultra-romantic plots laced with mysticism, religious omens, and ominous signs (such as a wind that mysteriously comes up, droughts that devastate a land when someone leaves, and thunderstorms that spring up just at the right moment) had better either avoid this film or be prepared for a real howl. Add to this some hammy overacting from the miscast Carroll Baker, who is supposed to be Spanish, of all things.(Natalie Wood, who turned down the role, would have been a far better choice, and Sophia Loren might have been even better). And the young,unwrinkled Roger Moore DID look too pretty for a male actor.
But the basic plot, of the Virgin’s statue taking a young nun’s place is an old and time-honored legend used before on stage and film, and those who really get into this kind of thing will love it, although the disturbing idea of a heavenly curse which apparently causes death is certainly not in keeping with the Catholic idea of a merciful God. The movie is NOT cheesy, by the way; it is quite elaborately produced, with good photography and a throbbing musical score by “Ten Commandments” and “Magnificent Seven” composer Elmer Bernstein.
SHOOTING OF THE FILM
“Our director was a humorless jerk,” recalled Baker later. “Roger [Moore] took so much abuse from Irving Rapper that I was appalled, but he took it like a man and went on to do a very professional job.”
Rapper later said the “main trouble” on the film “was casting. The girl who played the nun [Baker] was thrust on me without a test. I was furious. I was floored. The whole thing was unspeakably bad because of her. I didn’t even talk to her.”
“I was difficult,” admitted Baker. “I always wanted things my way. I wanted things to be artistically wonderful, and when I worked with a bad director when I did with The Miracle, I was jumping all over him and saying, “No, you can’t do that” and “No, you’re not going to have me do this.” I was very difficult. He worked with Bette Davis and she was difficult, so I guess the studio thought he would be able to handle me. Obviously I was more difficult than Bette Davis.”
It was Katrina Paxinou’s first film in Hollywood since appearing in For Whom the Bell Tolls 15 years earlier. “All the people I know are gone,” she said during filming. “Where are they? The whole personality of Hollywood has changed. It’s not colourful anymore; it’s a dull neutral.”