The Miracle of the Bells is a standard religious novel to which Russell Janney has added a dollop of humor. The humor increases the novel’s appeal but can’t disguise its poor quality.
Press agent William “Spats” Dunnigan had met Olga when she was an innocent waif determined to be a star. He felt sorry for her and made sure she had a job to keep her in groceries. When opportunity arose, he catapulted Olga from stand-in to staring role.
Shortly after the film shoot ended, Olga died from lung damage suffered as a child. While explaining to the town priest that Olga wanted the church bells rung for her funeral, Spats gets an idea. He’ll have all the bells in Coaltown rung for four days before the funeral, turning it into a promotion for the film studio.
Spats not only achieves his publicity objectives, but also turns the town upside down. It’s a miracle! But there’s no reason to think Spats is a better man because of it.
If Russell Janney weren’t so clever with his odd characters and funny lines, the novel would fall flat. For substance, readers will have to look elsewhere. The Miracle of the Bells offers nothing but fun.The Miracle of the Bells By Russell Janney Prentice Hall, 1946 #1 bestseller in 1947 My grade: C+