Saturday, December 15, 2007

Screening Log. The Miracle Woman

The Miracle Woman (Frank Capra) (1931)

I wouldn't say that I dislike Frank Capra movies, its just that after the fourth or fifth one his formula becomes much too obvious and a little too much. So when I started this movie for my Stanwyckathon, I expected it to fall into the same "all-American small town common folk myth" niche (that he defined so well, so many times), but thankfully this one did not...or at least didn't as clearly as his later "classics" would.

Visually this is the most interesting and complex Capra film I've seen, with a good amount of camera movement and an overall beautiful composition. Stanwyck is amazing, and gives one of her best performances as an Aimee Semple McPherson inspired evangelist. David Manners is also excellent as the very convincing blind man who saves her. Sure there were a few convenient moments and awkward progressions, but overall this is my favorite Capra film, with the exception of It's a Wonderful Life (which was just so embedded into my childhood and overall experience that I can't honestly judge anything against it).


TAS said...

Capra could be a phenomenal filmmaker, but unfortunately this is mostly apparent in the films he became least known for (The Miracle Woman being just one). If you get a chance to see it, a film of his that may surprise you (since it demonstrates what the man was capable of in his finest hours) is The Bitter Tea of General Yen. It's vastly different, by leaps and bounds, than the prototypical Capra epics of the late 30s and 40s.

The "All-American small town common folk myth" in his work was established, mainly, with his 1935 film, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. There were traces of it earlier, but it wasn't nearly as oppressive as it became once he got rolling with it. The only thing that makes those films noteworthy to me is what's lingering under their surfaces; meaning that, if you watch them carefully, you'll see real cracks evident in his veneration of the Common Folk (this is a guy, remember, who voted Republican his entire life; not to mention his admiration of Mussolini). Other than that, they're not his best work, however well-constructed they are.

Excellent blog, by the way. And thanks for the link!

joel. said...

I just got The Bitter Tea of General Yen...looking forward to it.

Thanks a lot for the compliment, and the link...especially since the blog is, clearly, If Charlie Parker... inspired.

anyjazz said...

An excellent discussion. Thoughtful reviews.

*please cite or link when reposting*