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Miracle in Milan (Miracolo a Milano)

Miracle in Milan title card

Year - 1951
Studio - Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche (ENIC)
Stars - Francesco Golisano, Emma Gramatica, Paolo Stoppa, Guglielmo Barnabò
Director - Vittorio De Sica
Writing Credits - Cesare Zavattini (novel) Cesare Zavattini and Vittorio De Sica (screenplay)
Music - Alessandro Cicognini


An old woman (Emma Gramatica) finds a baby in her cabbage patch one day. She is delighted, and raises the child, naming him Toto. But when she dies, young Toto is taken to an orphanage where he lives until he is a young man.

Released with a handshake and virtually nothing else, Toto (Francesco Golisano) walks out into the streets of Milan with a big smile on his face and full of optimism. He greets everyone he sees, much to their confusion or scorn. When a tramp steals his suitcase, he follows and confronts him, and then gives the suitcase to the tramp out of kindness. The tramp invites him to spend the evening at his "home", which turns out to be a makeshift shack in a shantytown.

There, the ever-optimistic Toto makes friends with all the other camp dwellers, helping them turn their junkyard into a little village, street signs and all (with street names like "5x5=25", "so the children can learn"). He is incapable of an unkind word or deed. When he is with a very short man, he stoops so as not to seem taller; when he sees the man with a crooked face, he makes his own face crooked; he grabs his back in "pain" when he encounters the man with that condition.

Miracle in Milan poster

As the shantytown dwellers are planting a pole in the ground, a gusher of oil bursts skyward. They all laugh and sing except for one, who skulks off to tell Mobbi (Guglielmo Barnabo), the owner of the property. The snitch returns to the camp wearing a new fur coat, and Mobbi's police arrive to run the squatters off of his property. The squatters grab clubs and chase the police off the property, and a group of them go to Mobbi's mansion to appeal to him. Mobbi is charming and gracious, offers his guests tea, and confirms that they are the "most important" people from the camp (so that his henchmen have time to roust the others). The group returns to the camp as all their friends are being escorted out and convinces them to turn back.

The incensed Mobbi returns to the camp with squadrons of police and prepares for a full-scale assault. They lob smoke canisters into the camp and the squatters run off. Toto climbs a tall pole to get above the choking smoke. As he perches at the top, his mother, as an angel, descends from the skies and presents him with a white dove, telling him that the bird can do anything. She hurries away, being pursued by two heavenly guards.

Toto tests the dove's powers by ordering two fried eggs. A pan of two fried eggs appears. "Three fried eggs," he commands, and another pan with three eggs appears. He goes to the gathered squatters and asks them to all blow the smoke away. They blow and the smoke clears from the campsite. Mobbi orders the police captain to sound the charge against the squatters, but the only sound from his lips is operatic aria, to the applause of the camp dwellers. His replacement tries, but his voice only produces a soprano refrain.

Mobbi and the police are dumbfounded, but the squatters, realizing Toto's wondrous powers, besiege him with requests. A new hat, a sewing machine, a bedroom dresser, a complete wardrobe, a crystal chandelier. A short man asks to be tall, and Toto, with the magic dove, complies. A black man, in love with a white girl, asks to become white. As his wish is granted, the girl appears, but her request had been to become black. A man asks for a "million." Another counters with "a million million". The first then demands "a million million million million million million million" and on and on. The squatters become a demanding mob and Toto retreats to the shack of a girl, Edvige (Brunella Bovo), he admires.

When he asks her what she would like, she thinks awhile and announces "shoes!" An elegant shoe appears on her left foot but, in the background, the angelic guards are seen retrieving the dove from the window sill, and Toto's magic works no more.

The police load the squatters into a caravan of horse-driven paddy wagons and drive off for the city. From the rear window Toto sees his angel mother running behind with the dove, pursued by the two guards. When a traffic light turns red, she laughingly runs through, but the angel guards are compelled to stop, giving the mother time to hand the dove to Toto.

The caravan arrives in downtown Milan, and Toto causes the sides of all the wagons to fall apart, freeing their prisoners. Toto grabs a broom from a street sweeper, he and Edvige mount it and they fly into the sky as he shouts for the others to follow. They all commandeer brooms from other street sweepers, and the homeless band soars off into the heavens.

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