Case Number 10768: Small Claims Court


Warner Bros. // 1955 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // February 6th, 2007

The Charge

Let romance rain down on you...

The Case

Here's a nice diversion for those who enjoy classic Hollywood romance-dramas. Miracle in the Rain explores the happenstance of two lonely people meeting and falling in love in a whirlwind romance. It celebrates the surprise and joy of an unexpected courtship, but also bares the hardship and sorrow when life happens to peoples' plans.

Young Ruth Wood (Jane Wyman, All That Heaven Allows) is quietly committed to her workaday life. She dutifully makes her way to the New York sales office of Excelsior Shoes Co. to process incoming orders. Focused on her work, she ignores the obvious tryst between the office bombshell, Millie (Peggy Castle, Two-Gun Lady), and the boss, Mr. Jalonik (Fred Clark, The Birds and the Bees), and manages to enjoy a sociable friendship with co-worker Grace (Eileen Heckart, Somebody Up There Likes Me). But Ruth isn't one for romances or friendly relationships since she needs to rush home daily after work to look after her mother (Josephine Hutchison, Ruby Gentry). One day, upon leaving work, a vigorous rainstorm has parked itself over the New York skyline, causing the citizens to wedge themselves under overhangs and awnings until the city bus arrives. A chatty young soldier, Pvt. Arthur 'Art' Hugenon (Van Johnson, Yours, Mine, and Ours), befriends Ruth, his infectiously friendly and forthcoming style earning him a dinner with the young girl back at her apartment. Ruth is swept off her feet by Art's pleasantry, yet her mother appears distrustful. Yes, trust is difficult to ever grant again, given her own father abandoned her and her mother over ten years ago, but Ruth simply cannot resist the gentlemanly Art. On a lark, they visit a local auction, typically a haven for swindles, yet Ruth bids on and wins an authentic Roman coin as a gift for Art. With it, the private proclaims it to be his lucky charm and fashions it on a string to wear around his neck. The charm seems to be working as everything is roses between the two starry-eyed young lovers -- until Art receives word that his brigade has been called overseas for active duty on the front lines. Ruth clings to his promise that he'll return and marry her, faithfully writing to Art every day. But when her letters go unanswered over five months, she begins to wonder if their miracle romance will come to fruition.

By nature of the plotline, you'll recognize some of the plot developments that are sure to come. The film has that classic romance splendor to it with Van Johnson being perkier than any character you could imagine these days (those not played for laughs, that is). As Art Hugenon, he appears from out of nowhere to seemingly fill a void that is present in Ruth's life and reaffirm her faith that a man can be honorable and reliable despite her father's unwarranted departure. Jane Wyman is quite adorable as the naïve Ruth, her saucer eyes and innocent countenance giving her that little-girl-lost appearance. She maintains a waif-like vulnerability throughout the romance with Art, giving Ruth a purity that is to be cherished yet is dangerously capable of being crushed. The war is in full swing, made evident when the young sales office "gopher," Marty (a likewise young Arte Johnson), uses a European map to plan his strategies for surrounding and suppressing the enemy. And, with plenty of "our boys" crowding the busy New York streets, we feel the sense of pride in their duty yet also anticipate the peril that each may succumb to. To this end, there is a sense of desperation and immediacy communicated through Johnson, Wyman, and the other actors. In a reasonably effective manner, then, the picture succeeds in imparting the hardship of those left behind as the soldiers go off to war.

Despite its untainted demeanor of a bygone era in entertainment, Miracle in the Rain struggles to achieve its goals. It suggests a common theme of chance -- or is it fate? By nature of Art showing up in Ruth's life -- and her mother's, for that matter -- we're asked to accept that there are other elements at work here. And, by acquisition of the Roman coin that Art professes will bring good luck, we're chided into considering the coin may indeed have some mystical impact on the events to come. And, ultimately, through Grace introducing Ruth to the Church of St. Andrew, we're also coaxed to suspect some spiritual guidance is at hand. There are many story threads at work in this film, presenting a narrative of how those threads can cross and redirect others by, what, happenstance or mysticism or divine intervention? The film is never quite sure what it wants us to believe and, therefore, never fully commits itself to any of its premises. This is too bad, since there is a powerful result that could have come about had it focused on two or three of the threads and developed them fully. As it stands, it winds up being a bit too ambiguous and even leaves some of the threads hanging by the time the end of picture arrives. These missteps aren't devastating to the enjoyableness of the film, but they still prevent it from becoming what we hoped it could have.

Now available on DVD, Miracle in the Rain looks very nice thanks to the fine transfer here. The image quality is smooth and clean, clearly restored and bearing only few incidences of visible source dirt or damage. The black-and-white gradients aren't as precise as you might see in other restorations but they perform well here. At the beginning of the picture, the view of the New York City skyline bears visible banding, but this only lasts for about half a minute and doesn't reoccur for the rest of the running time. The film is presented in its original 4:3 Academy Ratio presentation. The audio is a bit cramped in the available Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono track. It's well balanced, though, and allows dialog to emerge cleanly while also representing Franz Waxman's score and the variety of sound effects.

There are a few extras on the disc, beginning with two vintage "Behind the Camera" sequences from the Warner Bros. Presents television series. In both, host Gig Young catches up with the cast and crew of Miracle in the Rain, first to reveal how film cameras were hidden around the actual New York locations to capture real city life and then to explain how a magazine of film from the picture is processed and developed into its final state. Each of these segments runs about five minutes. The only other extra is the film's original theatrical trailer.

It's good to see Warner Brothers continue to mine its vaults to bring forward classic entertainment like this. As you view it, you'll likely find this to be an unexpected but welcome reprieve from the harsh cynical tone that permeates most current-day movies. Yes, it's simple in its delivery and facile in its characterizations, but it makes for worthwhile "entertainment escapism." Keep your expectations set appropriately and you'll most certainly enjoy this well-meaning romantic tale.

Case dismissed.

Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)

* None

Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Behind the Camera" Segments From Warner Bros. Presents TV Series
* Theatrical Trailer

* IMDb