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Miracles for Sale (1939)

Not Rated | | Crime, Mystery | 14 August 1939 (USA)
Retired performer Mike Morgan sells original illusions to fellow magicians, and although he believes in the supernatural, likes to expose sham psychics. This involves him in some mysterious murders.


Tod Browning


Harry Ruskin (screen play), Marion Parsonnet (screen play) | 2 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Robert Young ... Michael Morgan
Florence Rice ... Judy Barclay
Frank Craven ... Dad Morgan
Henry Hull ... Dave Duvallo
Lee Bowman ... La Claire
Cliff Clark ... Inspector Gavigan
Astrid Allwyn ... Mrs. Zelma La Claire
Walter Kingsford ... Colonel Watrous
Frederick Worlock ... Dr. Sabbatt (as Frederic Worlock)
Gloria Holden ... Madame Rapport
William Demarest ... Quinn
Harold Minjir Harold Minjir ... Tauro


Mike Morgan creates the illusions that magicians use in their shows. While his business is Miracles for Sale, his hobby is exposing fake spiritualists. At the club, he is invited to attend the calling from the other world by Sabbatt, but Judy wants Mike to help her instead. Later that night, after spoiling an attempt on the life of Judy, and meeting Madame Rapport, Mike goes to Sabbatt's hotel only to find the doors chained from the inside and a strange voice speaking. Busting in, he finds Sabbatt strangled. While there seems to be no way for anyone from this world to commit the murder, it is only the first murder. Mike must find the how and why before Judy becomes the third and final victim. Written by Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Thrills! Chills! Laughs! See more »


Crime | Mystery


Not Rated | See all certifications »






Release Date:

14 August 1939 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cuda na sprzedaz See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


According to a book on movie makeups, this is the first known film use of contact lenses to change the color of an actor's eyes. See more »


One scene shows Morgan having some fun with a waiter by making sugar bowls disappear and reappear. The first time he does the trick it is cleverly executed, but the second and third time it is clearly accomplished with a camera effect instead of actual slight-of-hand. See more »


Dad Morgan: [in his son's shop: looking at a stage prop skull which moves its jaws up and down] You must've been a woman. You know you're dead, but you're still trying to talk.
See more »


Comin' through the Rye
Lyrics from Robert Burns poem (1782]
See more »

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User Reviews

It's Magic
20 March 2006 | by krorieSee all my reviews

Tod Browning's final feature length film is a dandy. It seems someone is killing off New York City's prestidigitators, and one of them, Mike Morgan (Robert Young) wants to know why; plus he may be the next victim. As Red Buttons used to say, "Strange things are happening." Murder victims disappear; murder victims reappear as apparitions. Never fear. Police Inspector Marty Gavigan (Cliff Clark) is hot on the case with his at times able assistant Detective Quinn (William Demarest).

A mysterious blond, Judy Barclay (Florence Rice), dashes from a taxi cab seeking sanctuary in Mike Morgan's abode of tricks and treats. Who is after her? Why is she interested in Mike Morgan? What is her relationship to the other magicians of New York City? The plot thickens as one by one some of the questions are answered, but not all until the very end. Mike Morgan is a topnotch magician who doesn't believe in the hocus-pocus of fake mediums out to scam innocent citizens. Yet so much is cloudy and mysterious he and the Inspector contact spiritualist Madame Rapport (Gloria Holden). Even though rapport with her is lacking, they hope to flush out the killer and uncover the motive behind the crimes.

With Tod Browning's circus background, the magic tricks and other special effects sequences are given an authentic presentation. Given the technological limitations of the day, some of the feats of magic shown are amazing. Another positive note, all the ethereal occurrences are explained through reasoning by Mike Morgan.

Robert Young shines in the lead role. Later, he became typecast twice. First as the perfect father, Jim Anderson, in "Father Knows Best" and then as everybody's perfect family doctor, "Marcus Welby, M.D." Many of the present generation don't realize that he had a long, successful screen career previous to his TV roles. He made many good movies, in particular the noir thrillers "They Won't Believe Me," and "The Second Woman." Florence Rice too turns in a fine performance. She failed to survive the 1930's because critics claimed she was in films as a result of her father's (Grantland Rice) influence. That's a pity since she showed so much promise.

For some reason, mystery movies of the 1930's required a dumb detective, most of whom acted so stupid that they became annoying rather than funny. This time around the supposed nitwit turns out to be the great character actor William Demarest. As always, he really can deliver the laughs.

The prestidigitator Tauro is played by Harold Minjir who usually overacts in his many supporting film appearances. This time, maybe because Tod Browning keeps him in check, he turns in an effective performance.

And, oh, yes, look for Charles Lane the indefatigable as the Fleetwood Apartments desk clerk, still alive at 101 and still available for work.

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