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Review of the classic love drama with a touch of supernatural, ‘Miracle in the Rain’

Miracle in the Rain

‘MIRACLE in the Rain’ is one of the classic films we just revisited. It’s what you call a three-handkerchief weepie and they don’t make films like this anymore. Some would say they’re old fashioned melodrama but, honestly, most of the new films we watch nowadays are badly made, even some of those currently nominated in the Oscars. Some of them a complete waste of time and we’re really having a better time rewatching old films of our youth.

We remember our aunts raving about “Miracle in the Rain”, but we only saw it on TV in the 60s. It’s basically a love story and what we remember most about it is the climactic sequence shot in the rain at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The film stars Jane Wyman, best known as the scheming matriarch Angela Channing in the hit soap series, “Falcon Crest”, that ran from 1981 to 1990.

She won the Oscar for “Johnny Belinda” in 1948 and was married to Ronald Reagan from 1940 to 1949. They had three kids and Reagan would later be the President of the United States. She’s also known for two hit dramas where she’s paired with Rock Hudson, “Magnificent Obsession” and “All That Heaven Allows”, directed by the respected Douglas Kirk who also did the classic melodramas “Imitation of Life” (a real tearjerker) and “Written on the Wind”.

“Miracle in the Rain” was first written as a novella by Ben Hecht in 1943 and he himself wrote the screenplay when Warner Bros. filmed it in 1956. The story is set in New York in 1942 and filmed there on location. We stayed in New York for one year from 1988 to 89 and it’s nice to see familiar places used extensively in the movie, notably Central Park and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

The lead character is Ruth Wood (Wyman), an old maid who lives with her ailing mother in Manhattan. She works as a secretary in a shoe factory and has never had a boyfriend. One rainy afternoon on her way home, she meets a soldier, Arthur Hugenon (Van Johnson), who talks a lot and strikes a conversation with the quiet Ruth.

He asks her to dinner but she says her mom is waiting for her at home. Art says then they will have dinner at her home and buys so much food for all of them. Her mom is wary of men as her own husband abandoned them when Ruth was still a little girl. Her mom even tried to kill herself after getting depressed.

Art is very communicative and easily charms the introverted Ruth. They go out to see a show one weekend with Ruth’s friend, Grace (Eileen Heckart). While passing by a store with an ongoing auction, Ruth buys an antique Roman coin as a gift for Art. They go to dinner to a French restaurant and it turns out that the piano player there is Ruth’s long lost dad who recognizes her didn’t get the nerve to introduce himself.

Art and Ruth go out on a date again on a beautiful spring day in Central Park with its beautiful lake and scenic skyline. He professes his love for her. But soon, he has to leave for an assignment overseas. He tells her he will marry her when he returns. She’s afraid he might not come back, but he shows her the Roman coin she gave him which he now wears as a necklace for good luck.

For three months, she writes diligently to her then one day, she gets a letter from an army chaplain saying that Art has died in the war and his last wish is for her to be told that he would love her forever. Ruth is consumed by her grieving for Art and she finds consolation in St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its vast solemn interior.

It’s obvious she’s not a Catholic, but Ruth takes a liking to St. Andrew and lights candles for him. Her health deteriorates and one rainy night, despite her having pneumonia, she returns to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for the miracle in the title to happen. At this point, you should be ready with your hankies for the film’s bittersweet but heartbreaking conclusion in the rain.

In the 50s, this kind of film is called a sentimental woman’s picture. Now, it’s called a chick flick. Cynical critics today will no doubt dismiss it as schmaltzy and overflowing with soap suds, with the spiritual bit too much to take. We do agree but, surprisingly, even if we already know what happens in the movie, it still worked its supernatural magic on us upon second viewing.

That detail about that ancient Roman coin as a concrete evidence of Art professing that “love never dies” is just too too heartwrenching. This kind of endearing love story was a hit in the 50s and we remember another hit then was “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” with Jennifer Jones and William Holden, set in Hong Kong.

We actually find “Miracle” quite well acted. The role of the lonely, fragile Ruth who finds happiness in a whirlwind romance is well played by Wyman, whose aura on screen somehow reminds us of our own Jodi Sta.Maria. Van Johnson gives a winning portrayal of the appealing but ill-fated soldier who wants to be a reporter after the war. The supporting cast is very competent, notably Eileen Heckart as Wyman’s best friend, Josephine Hutchinson as her mother, and Irene Seidner as their nosey but caring neighbor.

Publication Source :    People's Journal
Mario Bautista
Former member: Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Urian)