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Banned in the U.S.A.

Friday, November 20, 1992
The Miracle (Il Miracolo)
Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1948

The Miracle was originally exhibited as part of a trilogy, The Ways of Love, with companion pieces by Renoir and Pagnol. In this neorealist masterpiece, Anna Magnani plays a simple-minded peasant who allows a bearded vagabond (played by Federico Fellini, who also wrote the story) to seduce her, thinking he is St. Joseph. She announces the "miracle" of her pregnancy, but is met by scorn from her fellow villagers who clamp a basin on her head for a halo. Rossellini's film was similarly ridiculed and eventually blasted as blasphemous, not in Rome but in Cardinal Spellman's New York, where it was met with pickets and boycotts. Ephraim London, one of the great First Amendment lawyers, argued the case for The Miracle in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and got the miracle the film industry had waited for for thirty-five years: film now had Constitutional protection.

• Written by Rossellini, Tullio Pinelli, based on a story by Federico Fellini. Photographed by Aldo Tonti. With Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini. (43 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 16mm, From Films Inc.)