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A bitter divorcee works to educate a deaf and blind girl.
In the small village of Cloncraig, Ireland in 1948, young Esther Costello leads a band of children on a treasure hunt. In a ruined old house, they find a box of grenades, and as the children wrestle one another for possession of one of the explosives, Esther's mother calls her, sending the children into hiding. When Esther puts the grenade down, the pin slips out, causing it to explode, killing Mrs. Costello and rendering Esther blind and deaf. Five years later, Margaret Landi, a rich, American socialite, visits Cloncraig, the town in which she was born, where Father Devlin, the village priest, introduces her to the now adolescent, blind and deaf Esther, who is living with her alcoholic aunt. Although Margaret feels pity for Esther's situation, she refuses the priest's entreaties to become the girl's benefactor. Margaret changes her mind, however, that night when she stops at the Costello house and finds Esther groveling in the dirt with a dog. Horrified, Margaret agrees to take Esther to the London Medical Institute for evaluation. There, the girl is diagnosed as having experienced a psychological trauma from the shock of seeing her mother killed. Although the doctors assure Margaret that Esther can be taught to adapt to her condition, Margaret, unable to communicate with the girl, decides to send her back to Cloncraig. When Esther finally responds to her, however, Margaret takes the girl home with her to Boston, where, at the airport she meets Harry Grant, an inquisitive young reporter. When Margaret tries to leave her charge at a school for the blind and deaf, Esther runs away and is nearly hit by a car, prompting Margaret to decide to stay at the school with her. With Margaret's patience and fortitude, Esther gradually learns to communicate to the world through a form of sign language, Braill, and touching a person's throat to feel the vibrations given off by vocal chords. Once Esther's education is complete, they leave the school. One day in the park, Harry encounters Esther and is pleased to find that she has become an attractive, communicative young woman. After Harry writes a touching story about Esther, contributions begin to flood in to start a fund for the disadvantaged. One day, Margaret receives a check from her estranged husband Carlo, whom she has not seen for five years. Tracing Carlo to the art gallery in which he works, Margaret tries to return the check, but the suave Carlo wants to rekindle their romance. Margaret avoids Carlo's constant calls until one night, he unexpectedly appears at her apartment and seduces her with his charm. The next morning, Margaret explains to Esther that Carlo has come home to stay. Although Carlo professes love for Margaret, in reality, he has returned to exploit Esther's charity. To accomplish this, he introduces Margaret to Wenzel, a cheap hustler who devises a plan to establish the Esther Costello Fund, complete with rag dolls and pitiful posters. Although Margaret is troubled by Wenzel's tactics, Carlo overcomes her reservations and they embark upon a grueling campaign of personal appearances in which the innocent Esther is placed in vulgar spectacles to raise money from gullible audiences. As the tour prepares to leave for Europe, Margaret learns from her loyal assistant Tammy that Wenzel has been skimming money from the proceeds. When Margaret confronts Carlo with the accusation, however, Carlo lashes out at her. As Carlo begins to drink heavily, he becomes incapable of concealing his attraction to Esther. Soon after the tour leaves for Europe, Ryan, Harry's editor, begins to suspect that money is being skimmed from the Esther Costello Fund, and Harry asks to accompany him to Europe to investigate. In Venice, Margaret sees Carlo leering at the disrobing Esther and begs him to cancel the tour and return home. To placate his wife, Carlo agrees to disband the tour in London. There, Carlo learns that Margaret is traveling to Brighton, thus leaving Esther alone for the night. Sneaking into Esther's bedroom, Carlo rapes her, severely traumatizing the girl, thus causing her sight and hearing to return. Upon returning to London, Margaret finds Esther in tears and Carlo's cufflink discarded on her bed. As Margaret tries to comfort the distraught girl, Esther begins to speak to her. Margaret then immediately phones Father Devlin and asks him to join them in London. Harry, meanwhile, has uncovered fraud in the fund, and suspecting that Margaret is involved, goes to confront her. Margaret sends Harry to see Esther, and after the girl speaks to him, Margaret extracts a pistol from a cabinet and drives to the airport to meet Carlo, who is flying in from Scotland. After throwing down Carlo's cufflink, Margaret points the gun hidden in her coat pocket at him and orders him into her car. Soon after, a newspaper headline trumpets the story of Margaret and Carlo's death. When Wenzel is asked for an explanation, he lies that the couple were killed in an automobile accident. Father Devlin then arrives and persuades Esther to carry on with her good works despite the tragedy. As Esther steels herself to face the waiting crowd, Ryan decides to suppress Harry's exposé.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||London opening: 15 Aug 1957; Chicago opening: 2 Oct 1957|
|Release Date:||1957||Production Date:||
The David Miller Production
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Romulus Films, Ltd.|
|Duration(mins):||102 or 104||Country:||Great Britain and United States|
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The Story of Esther Costello (1957)
Mr. Blandings 2013-01-28
Due to the heavy subject matter this is not a film one can easily rewatch, but Heather Sears' performance was nothing short of brilliant. And it was...
The Story of Esther Costello
Celia Trimboli 2010-05-06
Wonderful drama. I found a copy on VHS in the 90s.
This MUST come on DVD
Victoria Owen 2008-04-25
I came across a new copy of this film long ago and was surprised because I had never heard of it. I almost bought it but was afraid to because of the...