The Miracle Woman is one of noted director Frank Capra's early films. Inspired by the exploits of Aimee Semple McPherson, it stars Barbara Stanwyck as Florence Fallon, embittered daughter of a Christian pastor whose life of service to a local church nets him nothing. Upon his death, she teams up with a fast-talking con man (Sam Hardy) and starts an emotionally charged ministry replete with bogus miracles and fake healings. Becoming something of a mega-star, her life begins to change when she meets John Carson, (DM) a blind World War I aviator and songwriter. As their relationship blossoms and she realizes her impact on his sad life, she repents and her faith in God and humanity is restored.
This is quite a film. Though not as developed and slick as his later work, it is quite recognizably Capra and the performances of the two stars are nothing short of spectacular. Stanwyck is electrifying; at times jaded and mean, at times innocent and playful. DM gives the performance of his career, almost stealing the show, and one actually experiences the two characters' whole beings change as the plot unfolds and they fall in love. Their on-screen chemistry is explosive and captivating, and is certainly aided by the literate script and Capra's sensitive direction. The supporting cast also gives great performances and the viewer is treated to the full gamut of emotions.
Again, this is quite a film and enough cannot be said about DM's performance. I believe it is his best on film and he once stated that Frank Capra was the best director with whom he ever worked. He also had nothing but praise for Barbara Stanwyck, calling her stellar in every way and one of the nicest stars in Hollywood. His words were, "I adored her." Not usually keen on talking about his movies, DM remembered The Miracle Woman with fondness and even mentioned that quite a few of his scenes were cut.
The Miracle Woman must have raised some eyebrows in 1931 with its direct attack on religious hypocrisy. It was supposedly banned for some time in England. It is a must-see for any fan of David Manners.