Friday, September 13, 2019

Packs the Theater at $2.00 a Seat -- September 13, 2019

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
The Miracle Man, based on a novel by Frank L Packard and a play by George M Cohan, was the movie that made Lon Chaney a star. Here we see him with Betty Compson in a detail from a larger page.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Stars of the film are shown on the page, but it does not mention Chaney's name.  It merely identifies him as "The Contortionist."

Moving Picture World, 06-September-1919
"Find one dead expression in this group and win a prize."  I like that.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919

"George Loane Tucker's Production of the Frank L. Packard Story for the Paramount-Artcraft Puts the Picture Among the Finest Examples of Screen Drama

By Edward Weitzel

"THERE is more than one miracle performed in George Loane Tucker's production of 'The Miracle Man,' the story as presented on the screen having the power to sway the emotions of the spectator with the compelling force of the deaf and dumb healer over the souls and bodies of those who come under his influence. Like every exceptional work of art, this Paramount-Artcraft picture made from Frank L. Packard's keenly dramatic and intensely human tale has one outstanding attribute which overtops every other quality: its power to work its will with the beholder. Neither as a piece of dramatic construction nor as a presentation of unusual phases of life that square with cold reason is it exempt from grave error, but these unfavorable conditions have little, if any, effect upon the firm hold of its emotional appeal; and it is another potent demonstration that human interest is the keystone of all forms of dramatic fiction.

"George Loane Tucker's Double Triumph.

"As the adapter of the story to the screen as well as the director of 'The Miracle Man,' George Loane Tucker has achieved a double triumph. Recognizing the rock upon which George M. Cohan wrecked his dramatic structure when he made the Packard tale into a stage play and also realizing that the scene of the miracle of the little lame boy's discarded crutches is the great dramatic moment of the entire picture in spite of the circumstances that it occurs when the action is only one-third over, scenarist Tucker has not relied upon the moral regeneration of the four criminals for the sole motive of the rest of the drama but has thrown a deeper romantic interest about the love affair between Tom Burke and Rose by using the young millionaire as Tom's rival and keeping the issue in doubt until the last moment. Several of the points in the last half of the story are overemphasized and the death scene of the healer could be shortened to advantage, but broadly considered the Tucker scenario is a work of great excellence.

"Like Drawings by Dore.

"Any attempt to set down a just appreciation of George Loane Tucker's efforts as the director of 'The Miracle Man' must concede him a full measure of praise in every detail of production and credit him with having distanced all of his previous contributions to the screen.

"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, the iron-nerved mendicant who preys upon the compassion of humanity, are daring and masterly. Only in the drawings of Dore for Victor Hugo's 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' can such criminal monstrosities be found. Surprise and fascinated horror grip the spectator when the crowded traffic is held up and through the rain and slime of a chill night on the grimy east side the distorted shape of a man is seen painfully dragging itself toward the gutter, the lower limbs apparently useless and their pitiable owner obliged to lie prone in the filth of the street.

"The word painting of the French novelist descriptive of the hurrying mob of crippled beggars returning to their underground haunt, and the glee with which the lame, the halt and the blind join in the wild debauch which celebrates their success at beguiling the charitable of their spare coins is equaled by the scenes in 'The Miracle Man' where The Frog appeals to the pity of the passerby and later on meets the three other members of his gang, exposes the vileness of his monstrous trickery and leads his companions in scoffing at the generosity that enables them to ply their nefarious trades.

"The Scene of the Miracle.

"The entire first third of this picture contains every possible element demanded by dramaturgic art : theme, character drawing, suspense, steady upward trend of movement and a climax that is as convincing and as inevitable as the answer to a problem in Euclid. From the time that Tom Burke confides to his pals his scheme to use the healer as the bait for their trap to catch humanity and fatten upon the suffering of the unfortunate until the supreme moment when the little cripple watches the faked miracle worked by The Frog upon himself and, upheld by the faith within his own feeble body and twisted limbs, throws away his crutches and walks tremblingly into the outstretched arms of the white haired old man at the top of the hill and The Frog and his fellow cheats realize they have seen a real miracle performed, the impulse driving the course of events forward is as resistless as the surge of the sea. It is doubtful if screen drama will ever know a more powerful moment than this climax to a bold stroke of criminal cunning — this triumph of goodness and trust over the forces of evil.

"Moral Blindness Is Overcome.

"All through the working out of the rest of the story there is a sense of diminished force, like the still reverberant but more distant peals of thunder after the height of the storm has passed. The coolness and skill with which Tom Burke accepts the demonstration of the healer's power to perform miracles, and directs the stream of banknotes and checks that flows from the grateful patients of the old man into the pockets of the crooks, are insights into the resources of the criminal that surround him with a new interest.

"Then follows the startling discovery, made by the thieves themselves, that the power of the healer has reached even them, and their moral blindness is yielding to the curative strength of the almost helpless being of those goodness and faith in humanity they had made a byword and a jest.

"This reformation of the entire gang is blended with the romantic interest previously alluded to between the girl Rose and Tom Burke and the cleverly devised element of suspense brought in with the arrival of millionaire Richard King, who sees in the girl of the underworld all that is best and fairest in womanhood and who shows her that love is a thing that protects and honors its object, not debases and destroys.

"The closing events, disclosing the death of the healer and the knowledge that Rose and Tom find the path to right living and happiness and will travel it as man and wife, bring the story to an ending that will meet with hearty approval.

"Three Star Performances.

"George Loane Tucker has evidently labored unsparingly upon every branch of production connected with 'The Miracle Man,' and nowhere is his good judgment more manifest than in his selection of the cast. 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.

"Admirable also is The Patriarch, as embodied by Joseph J. Dowling. The part as treated in the Tucker version of the story is not the positive figure the healer was in the spoken play. He is here both deaf and dumb, and failing eyesight leaves him almost totally blind before the end of the picture. He is also without any indication of mental vigor, a shadowy, mysterious figure who always remains in the background, notwithstanding his importance in the story. The subtle point made in the Cohan version, that the healer knew from the start his helpers were a gang of crooks but never let this fact be known to them, is so faintly hinted at by The Frog in the picture that the illusion is practically lost.

'But the healer still remains the mainspring of the action, a symbol of unseen power that compels belief in itself and in the humble instrument that does its bidding. It is the reaction of this power for good upon the love of Rose and Tom that puts the human touch into the story and guarantees it a warm welcome and many a word of praise."

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
 The Miracle Man is believed to be lost, except for an excerpt shown in a 1930s movie.

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