1 minute read

Inc. v. Wilson Joseph Burstyn Commissioner of Education of New York etal.

A Controversial Film

In the words of film critic Bosley Crowther (quoted in one of the Supreme Court decisions), The Miracle was the story of a "poor, simple-minded girl" who tends goats on a mountain in rural Italy. One day she meets a bearded stranger, whom she decides is "St. Joseph, her favorite saint, and that he has come to take her to heaven, where she will be happy and free." The stranger gives the girl wine and "apparently ravishes her." When she wakes up, the stranger is gone, and she has no idea whether he was real or a dream. She meets an old priest who says that perhaps she did see a saint. Eventually, the village women discover that the girl is going to have a child, whom she believes to be the son of St. Joseph. Mocked by the villagers, the girl becomes an outcast. As her time approaches, she finds a small, deserted church, where she gives birth. Then, as Crowther described it:

There is a dissolve, and when we next see her sad face, in close-up, it is full of a tender light. There is the cry of an unseen baby. The girl reaches towards it and murmurs, "My son! My love! My flesh!"

When the film was first shown at the Venice Film Festival, it was reviewed by L'Osservatore Romano the official newspaper of the Vatican. Although the critic, Piero Regnoli, found the film "pretentiously cerebral," he affirmed that "we continue to believe in Rosselini's art and we look forward to his next achievement."

When the 40-minute film was shown in New York--as part of a trilogy entitled Ways of Love--it was promptly attacked as "a sacrilegious and blasphemous mockery of Christian religious truth" by the national Legion of Decency, a private Catholic organization for film censorship whose rulings on films had considerable influence both in Hollywood and among the general public, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. On the other hand, New York film critics voted the trilogy "best foreign film" of 1950.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Inc. v. Wilson Joseph Burstyn Commissioner of Education of New York etal. - Significance, A Controversial Film, Sacrilege Or Art?, Movies As Free Press, Sacrilege And The Arts