Produced by Mayflower Photoplay Corporation; Released 8/26/19 by Paramount-Artcraft; Director: George Loane Tucker; Assistant Director: Chester L. Roberts; Screenplay: George Loane Tucker, from a novel by Frank L. Packard and the play by George M. Cohan; Cinematography: Philip E. Rosen and Ernest G. Palmer; Titles: Wid Gunning; Art Titles: Ferdinand Pinney Earle; 8 reels
CAST: Thomas Meighan (Tom Burke), Betty Compson (Rose), Lon Chaney (The Frog), J. M. Dumont (The Dope), W. Lawson Butt (Richard King), Elinor Fair (Claire King), Fred A. Turner (Mr. Higgins), Lucille Hutton (Ruth Higgins), Joseph Dowling (The Patriarch), Frankie Lee
SYNOPSIS: Four crooks live in New York's Chinatown, working one scheme after another to bilk money from the gullible public. Tom Burke is a slick con man and the leader of the gang. Rose is a pretty girl who begs money from sightseers so that she may give up her life of sin. The Dope is a drug friend who pretends to be Rose's pimp, and The Frog is a contortionist who can bend his limbs into unimaginable twists and turns. One day, Burke discovers a newspaper clipping about an old Patriarch near Boston who has the power to heal. Seeing an opportunity, the four go to the town where they plan to use the Patriarch to set up a faith-healing sham. A millionaire brings his crippled boy down to see the Patriarch, all other treatments for the boy having failed. As the crowd gathers, The Frog appears, horribly contorted, and begins to crawl towards the Patriach, his limbs gradually unbending as he comes closer to the man. The crippled boy, his faith restored at what he believes to be a true miracle, throws down his crutches and begins to walk. Burke advertises the power of the Patriarch, and soon people are coming from far and wide to have their ailments cured. One of these patients is Claire King, the crippled sister of a young millionaire, Richard King. She too is cured, and Richard gives Burke a check for $50,000. Richard spots Rose and is taken with her innocent beauty. Burke senses trouble when his cohorts begin to change under the influence of the healer. The Dope gives up his needle, The Frog reforms and takes the place of the son of a widow who has no one left to care for her, and Rose spends her time mooning over Richard, who has left town. Burke becomes incensed at Rose's interest in the millionaire, but when Richard returns to propose marriage, Rose realizes that it is Burke who she really loves. The Patriarch dies, and Rose and Burke are ready to start a better life together.
"Since BEN HUR nothing approaching this has been seen on stage or screen, and it has BEN HUR beaten seven ways for real sentiment. It is simpler, more true to life as we know it, and so more effective...Commercially, this is a picture that will coin money. Artistically, it marks hope's triumph over experience." ---Variety
"Pictorially, the drama is a succession of compositions that have true artistic form. The conception and handling of the scenes in which The Frog is the central figure...are daring and masterly. Only in the drawings of Dore for Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame can such criminal monstrosities be found...Three of the performances in the picture are sufficiently meritorious to rank with any impersonation so far known to the screen. These performances are the Tom Burke of Thomas Meighan, the Rose of Betty Compson, and The Frog of Lon Chaney." ---Moving Picture World
"If ever a play made stars, this one will. Whose is the finest performance? Really, I don't know. I should say that honors are even, gauged only by the various opportunities...Lon Chaney is so good as the Frog that I cannot think of anyone who could have played that grotesque monster as effectively." ---Photoplay
NOTES: Actor Thomas Meighan had seen the Cohan play, and was determined to see the film made. Photoplay reported that Meighan, a personal friend of Cohan's, convinced him to sell the rights to the play for $25,000, a steep price in those days for a story. The film is actually much closer in story to the book than to Cohan's play. Paramount spared no expense in advertising the film. In Chicago, airplanes dropped free tickets to the film, and small coins were scattered about town that said "The Miracle Man Is Here" on one side, and "Have faith, Keep this" on the other. The film broke all house records at Orchestra Hall in Chicago. THE MIRACLE MAN cost $120,000 to make, and earned about $3,000,000 in gross sales. Paramount remade the film in 1932 with Chester Morris, John Wray, and Sylvia Sidney.
THE MIRACLE MAN is one of the most important films in Chaney's career, yet sadly no longer exists. A brief clip does exist as part of a "Movie Milestones" series that Paramount issued in the 30's. These shorts contained clips from big Paramount hits of the silent era including BEAU GESTE and THE COVERED WAGON and the brief MIRACLE MAN sequence where crippled Chaney is "healed" by the fake preacher.
Also, check out this sheet music on my Memorabilia Page.
© 1998,2008 Jon C. Mirsalis
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