The Miracle Worker Young Helen Keller, blind, deaf, and mute since infancy, is in danger of being sent to an institution. Her inability to communicate has left her frustrated and violent. In desperation, her parents seek help from the Perkins Institute, which sends them a “half-blind Yankee schoolgirl” named Annie Sullivan to tutor their daughter. Through persistence and love, and sheer stubbornness, Annie breaks through Helen’s walls of silence and darkness and teaches her to communicate.
The Miracle Worker Although I am a long-time Patty Duke admirer, and thus far from objective, this film still stands the test of time. This is the kind of filmmaking that prompted me to fall in love with the movies. Brilliantly inspired writing by William Gibson, from his equally inspired play. Intelligent, austere direction by Arthur Penn (one of the true gentlemen and masters of the American cinema); Penn had the sense to retain the inate artistry and grit of the original stage play and simply allow the camera to capture the actors’ intuitive – albeit, well rehearsed, performances, recreating their stage roles which generated an unheard-of 19 curtain calls when it first graced the stage in its Philadephia opening. The film, in stark, black and white, speaks total reality to the film audience of 1962 – and, of course, well beyond that year. Finally, one would be hard pressed to think of another film that so exquisitely defines the term “2-character” study. Bancroft and Duke deliver A-plus, no bones about it, top-drawer, performances. It is a film about the undaunted human spirit and our need to communicate. Although much has been written about 11-minute breakfast donneybrook, which is certainly wonderful cinema to behold, the entire film is breathtaking from opening credits to the final scenes. I dare anyone to even breathe during the climactic water pump scene when teacher Annie Sullivan finally “connects” and communicates with her “unreachable” charge, the deaf, blind, young Helen Keller. It’s an absolutely astonishing, “can’t take your eyes off it,” moment of celluloid. Duke, Bancroft and Penn worked beatifully to create this incredibly touching masterpiece of dramatic filmmaking, which is not without its moments of “comedy,” as all fine dramas are capable of conveying. It is a film which breathes life – and it is especially brought to life by two of the best actresses America has ever produced. The Miracle Worker is a story and film portraying real human courage, patience and individual, personal will. It continues to live in my memory as a work of art that has rarely been equalled before – or since – on screen.