Man Who Could Work Miracles, The (1936)

Man Who Could Work Miracles, The (1936)

“If only one could work miracles… Just think of what you could do.”

When a British draper’s clerk (Roland Young) is suddenly able to work miracles, he seeks help from a colonel (Ralph Richardson) and a pacifist vicar (Ernest Thesiger) in making the world a better place.


  • Fantasy
  • George Sanders Films
  • H.G. Wells Films
  • Ralph Richardson Films
  • Roland Young Films
  • Supernatural Powers

H.G. Wells scripted this fantastical morality tale (based on his own 1898 short story) about the possibilities inherent in miracle-making — which inevitably run a certain course to doom. Wells carefully takes us through Young’s initial incredulity and enthusiasm:

towards a muddled mess of decision-making and accidental outcomes, showing how easily people with power can be swayed both by others’ advice, and their own sense of faux-grandiosity.

Young’s character is deliberately an “every man” — indeed, one with lust in his heart (for coworker Joan Gardner):

despite the presence of a “good woman” (Sophie Stewart) waiting by his side:

It’s no surprise to see him struggling so mightily with his newfound ability. The entire tale is framed as the machinations of a trio of gods — Indifference (George Sanders — perfect casting), Player (Ivan Brandt), and Observer (Torin Thatcher) — overlooking the Earth and trying this exercise on for size:

… which brings to mind the structure of Jason and the Argonauts (1963).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An intriguing glimpse at what miraculous powers might wreak upon humanity

Must See?
Yes, once, as a surprisingly thought-provoking fantasy. Listed in the back of Peary’s book as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation.



One thought on “Man Who Could Work Miracles, The (1936)

  1. First viewing (10/11/17). A must-see as an all-round good show – and a unique one at that. As per my post in ‘Film Junkie’ (fb):

    “Go about loving one another? Go about loving one another?! Are you… Are you mad, sir?”

    ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’: What an absolutely wonderful film!, as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. The prolific H.G. Wells was not known for writing screenplays – he wrote a few but only two were filmed: this one (expanded from a short story of his) and ‘Things to Come’ (made the previous year, 1935). ‘The Man…’ stars the personable Roland Young who becomes a guinea pig for a few celestial beings. It is decided that Young, an average man, will be given superhuman power – to see if the result will be for the betterment of mankind as a whole; to see if it is at all possible for mankind to… become a better mankind. As one might expect, the earlier part of the film involves Young being bewildered by his sudden ability, as well as playful with it. But things take a deeper (and, at times, rather amusing) turn as Young eventually consults with both a preacher (Ernest Thesiger, of ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ fame) and a colonel (hilariously portrayed by the ever-dependable Ralph Richardson) re: how his power should best be used. Where the film goes from there (along with some nifty effects, considering when the film was made) is ultimately both very clever and very sobering. What a mind that Mr. Wells had!

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