before THE PARADINE CASE had been edited, let alone released, word got around in
Selznick's new Italian import. Producer Jesse Lasky had
been struggling for months to cast the central role in his screen adaptation of
Russell Janney's best-selling novel THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS (1948), and after
seeing some of her work in THE PARADINE CASE, became convinced that Valli was
perfect for Olga Trocki, a Polish girl from Coaltown, Pennsylvania whose dreams
of becoming a great movie star are cut short by an untimely death. Told in
flashbacks narrated by her friend and press agent, Bill Dunnigan (Fred MacMurray),
to the priest, Father Paul (Frank Sinatra), who will be performing her funeral,
Olga's story is an inside peek into the inner-workings of the Hollywood studio
system, and a story Bill believes will inspire other small-town girls to follow
their dreams -- if only they could hear about it.
Though ostensibly Olga's story, the film version of THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS
ends up being the tale of a Hollywood press agent and his one-man crusade to
convince the producer of Olga's only film that he should release it despite the
death of its star. When what appears to be an act of divine intervention
takes place to further Bill's argument, instead of prompting a discussion about
the nature of miracles (as happens in the novel), the film treats it as a
fortuitous curiosity, explaining it away and thereby blunting much of the
emotional and theological impact it provided in the novel. Reaction
to the film was generally favorable in middle America but more cynical on the
coasts. Ben Hecht and Quentin Reynolds' screenplay bore the brunt of the
criticism, while Valli's personal reviews were good and generally paralleled those of the film --
the more reviewers liked it, the more they liked her (or vice-versa).
editing THE PARADINE CASE, in most American cities, THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS
beat THE PARADINE CASE to movie screens and became the film by which Valli was
first introduced to American audiences. Because she was still largely unknown
however, it was the novel's best-seller status and her male co-stars who proved
the film's biggest box-office draw.
The casting of Frank Sinatra as a priest at a time when he was receiving very
negative press about some off-color public behavior was not warmly received
however. Though billed as his first "straight dramatic" role,
eventually given a song (the English version of a Polish song sung by Valli
earlier in the film), and his critics saw the casting as a public relations ploy to
improve Sinatra's image, taking a page from the playbook that had won
Crosby an Oscar (for playing a priest in GOING MY WAY) in 1944. From a
box-office perspective, casting
Sinatra ultimately attracted the wrong audience
to the film: THE MIRACLE OF THE BELLS was too serious and transcendental for his
bobby-soxer fans. Released by RKO, its ultimate box-office performance
- "A person doesn't change just because you find out more." --as Anna
Schmidt in THE THIRD MAN (1949).
- "You know, you ought to find yourself a girl." --as Anna Schmidt in
THE THIRD MAN (1949).
- "When you're not around, I sometimes wonder if you aren't the
strangest man I ever met. When you are around, I'm absolutely sure
of it." --as Elaine Corelli in WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER (1950).
- "A dream is alright. It's an island everybody can sail to.
But you can't stay on it, or make a life on it, or walk on it." --as
Elaine Corelli in WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER (1950).
- "You think I'm crazy, and I know you are. We'd make a lovely
couple." --as Carla Alton in THE WHITE TOWER (1950).
- "Je n'ai pas l'habitude." --as Claudia in LES MIRACLES N'ONT LIEU
QU'UNE FOIS (1951). (translation: "I'm not used to it.")