Miracle in Soho (1957)

May 25th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Julian Amyes | Cast: John Gregson, Belinda Lee, Cyril Cusack, Rosalie Crutchley, Ian Bannen | UK Drama 93′

Miracle in Soho begins with the proud declaration “An Emeric Pressburger Production”. The elevation of Michael Powell to the Pantheon of great directors has not been without muted grumbles; and has even lead some to claim Pressburger was the one with the talent.

But such talk tends to ignore the two 1950s films Pressburger made without Powell, starting with the only one he actually directed, Twice Upon a Time (1953). Always conspicuous by its absence from Powell & Pressburger seasons, the experience evidently cured him of the desire ever to direct again, this time hiring Julian Aymes to take on that onerous task. Based on a script called ‘St Anthony’s Lane’, which he had written in 1934 and was in his suitcase when he arrived in Britain the following year, the film follows Michael Morgan (Grigson) an ordinary bloke whose life is turned around by the ‘miracle’ of love. Neither Pressburger nor Aymes ever made another film; and Miracle in Soho proves that whereas Pressburger gave the Archers’ their heart, Powell definitely supplied the muscle.

Ten years earlier Powell had done an amazing job of recreating the Himalayas without leaving Britain in Black Narcissus; and three years later he too would set a fanciful Eastman Colour production in Soho. But Peeping Tom was a vision of Hell compared to the studio-bound whimsy of Miracle in Soho. Like Black Narcussus before it Miracle in Soho was also shot at Pinewood, but although set in a location far closer to home it’s far less convincingly evoked than Black Narcissus. A previous writer on the IMDb has speculated that the final cut had a hefty edit, which would account for the brevity of Billie Whitelaw’s role and the haunting but fleeting presence of an un-billed Wilfred Lawson as John Gregson’s father (ironically seen sipping tea from a saucer in the second of his two very brief appearances; since he’s obviously been tippling on something a lot stronger). @Richard Chatten


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