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Alida Valli

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Even before THE PARADINE CASE had been edited, let alone released, word got around in Hollywood about 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).

Due to Selznick's difficulties 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, Sinatra was 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 Bing 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 proved disappointing.

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WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER (1950) with Joseph Cotten.



THE THIRD MAN (1949) with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten.

Multimedia Clips:

  • Click here"Theme" (clip) from THE THIRD MAN (1949) by Anton Karas (a .MP3 file).

  • Click here "Original Theatrical Trailer"  from THE THIRD MAN (1949) with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten (a .MOV file).

    (For help opening the multimedia files, visit the plug-ins page.)

THE WHITE TOWER (1950) with Glenn Ford.

Memorable Quotations:

  • "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.")
(aka MIRACLES ONLY HAPPEN ONCE) with Jean Marais.

How to make Jerome's origami swan with the flapping wings.


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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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