MIRACLE MAN, THE (George Loane Tucker, 1919, USA, BW)
Cast: Lon Chaney, Jean M. Dumont, Dwight Crittenden, Ruby Lafayette, Thomas Meighan
Director: George Loane Tucker
A group of crooks in New York City's Chinatown hear about an old hermit (Joseph J. Dowling) in a small upstate village who's performing miraculous cures. When they find out that the man is blind and deaf, they decide to pay him a visit. The leader, Tom Burke (Thomas Meighan), has his girlfriend Rose (Betty Compson), pose as the hermit's long-lost grand niece. Burke, Rose and the other crooks, the Frog (Lon Chaney) and the Dope, a morphine addict (J. M. Dumont), all become part of the hermit's household. The Frog fakes being a cripple, and the hoodlums figure that when he pretends to be cured, people will pay loads of money -- to the gang -- for the hermit's services. But they find out that the hermit's powers are real. This begins a change in the crooks -- the Dope quits drugs, the Frog is adopted by a gray-haired country lady, and when Rose is courted by a millionaire, she prefers to stay with Burke, who is finally won over by the hermit's faith. This film was based on a play by George M. Cohan, which was adapted from a book by Frank Packard.
The movie appears to be about some criminals who get in involved in a faith healing scam, with Lon Chaney portraying a fake cripple who "gets healed" by the faith healer. The clips that survive appear to have been part of a running series of sound shorts that gave capsule descriptions of classic silent movies while running clips from said movie. The extant clip largely involves the moment in which Lon Chaney is healed, and then a real crippled boy comes forward in the hope of being healed himself, and amazingly enough, is healed.
Undoubtedly one of the silent era's finest achievements. George Loane Tucker's classic dramatic film from 1919 entitled, The Miracle Man, was both a critical and financial success, costing only $120,000 to make, and earning over $3,000,000 in gross sales. Not to mention, The Miracle Man is solely responsible for kick starting Paramount and giving them a leading position in the 1920s and 1930. The film stared Thomas Meighan, Betty Compson, and Lon Chaney. It is most notable for making overnight successes of these three stars, unfortunately, now only remembered, as the film, to establish Chaney as Hollywood's most outstanding character actor and Meighan as a matinée idol for Paramount Studios.
Meighan had seen the George M. Cohan play, and was determined to see the film made. 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 Frank L. Packard novel than to Cohan's play. Director George Loane Tucker was assigned the project.
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