Casting Frank Sinatra as a Pennsylvania priest is but one of the many miscalculations made by the producers of Miracle of the Bells. Adapted by Ben Hecht and Quentin Reynolds from the best-selling novel by Russell Janney, the story revolves around an aspiring actress named Olga Treskovna (Alida Valli). Escaping the sooty environs of Coaltown, Pennsylvania, Olga heads to Hollywood, where through a series of incredible circumstances she manages to land the highly coveted leading role in a film based on the life of Joan of Arc. Tragically, Olga dies suddenly after wrapping up the film's final scene. Producer Marcus Harris (Lee J. Cobb) wants to reshoot the film with another, better-known actress, rather than risk losing a fortune on an "unknown" whom he can no longer groom for stardom. But press agent Bill Dunnigan (Fred MacMurray), who has journeyed to Coaltown to learn Olga's life story, tries to persuade Harris to release Joan of Arc as filmed, and to this end he enlists the aid of local priest Father Paul (Sinatra). To show their support for the late, lamented Olga, all the churches of all denominations in Coaltown ring their bells, nonstop, for three days. This man-made miracle not only convinces Harris to change his mind, but leads to a genuine miracle at the fadeout. Reviewers were unanimous in condemning Miracle of the Bells as a pretentious failure: the kindest comments ranged from "mawkish" to "nauseating." The picture hasn't improved much with age, but should be seen at least once on the strength of its cast alone. If it is seen, however, it's best to stick with the original black-and-white version and avoid the colorized TV print.
by Hal Erickson synopsis