The Miracle Worker – (1962)
Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft had been playing their respective roles as Helen Keller and her teacher, Annie Sullivan, on Broadway for some time before director Arthur Penn (The Left-Handed Gun) built a mesmerizingly beautiful film around their layers-deep performances. Duke is astonishing as the deaf, blind, mute Keller, who awakens to an awareness of language under Sullivan’s determined guidance. Bancroft is fascinating and focused. Penn wisely kept his adaptation unencumbered by cinematic indulgence. The black-and-white film is sparse and charged with the immediacy of the drama. The script is by William Gibson, who also wrote the original play.
Helen Keller was not only blind and deaf and mute, but she was one stubborn child. She meets her match in Annie Sullivan, the Irish teacher who once suffered herself from blindness. Helen’s parents hire Annie to teach Helen, who has no manners and is, at times, very difficult to handle. Anne Bancroft won an Oscar for a leading actress in a drama for her role as Annie Sullivan, and Patty Duke won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Helen Keller. They both give remarkable performances in this movie.
Although there is nothing in this film which crosses our level of acceptability, and although we are awarding the Dove Seal for all ages, we must note that parents need to be cautious with young children watching it. The intense scenes of Helen fighting Annie by slapping her and throwing things might be a bit much for them. On the other hand, older children will find it fascinating and may want to go to the library to learn more about Helen Keller and her remarkable life.