The Miracle Worker


1h 47m 1962
The Miracle Worker

Brief Synopsis

True story of the determined teacher who helped Helen Keller overcome deafness and blindness to learn to communicate.

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 May 1962
Production Company
Playfilms Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
New Jersey, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (New York, 19 Oct 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

In 1887 Annie Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake the seemingly impossible task of teaching deaf, blind, 7-year-old Helen Keller "language" through the sense of touch. Blind herself as a child and hardened by both her early years in institutions and the death of her younger, crippled brother, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from the pampering influence of her mother and the shouting domination of her father. Though Annie succeeds in getting the family to allow her 2 weeks alone with Helen in a small garden house on the Keller property, the high-spirited and strong-willed child opposes her at every turn. At the end of the 2 weeks, however, Helen has learned to dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet of touch. She is still unable, however, to comprehend that the words she spells are names for the objects she touches. Annie asks for another week alone with Helen, but the parents, seeing the progress that has been made, insist on bringing the child back into the household. There, she attempts to revert to her former willful savagery, but Annie again opposes her. Following an outburst at the dining room table, Annie drags the child to the pump on the front lawn and forces her to refill a pitcher from which she spilled the water. As the water pours over her hands, the sudden realization that what she feels is w-a-t-e-r dawns on the child, and she grasps Annie's hand and spells out the word. Wildly excited, Helen races about spelling the name of everything she touches--pump, tree, porch, bell, mother, father. Finally, Annie identifies herself by spelling out "teacher."

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Drama
Biography
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1962
Premiere Information
New York opening: 23 May 1962
Production Company
Playfilms Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists
Country
United States
Location
New Jersey, USA
Screenplay Information
Based on the play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (New York, 19 Oct 1959).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 47m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Award Wins

Best Actress

1962
Anne Bancroft

Best Supporting Actress

1962
Patty Duke

Award Nominations

Best Costume Design

1962
Ruth Morley

Best Director

1962
Arthur Penn

Best Writing, Screenplay

1963

Articles

The Miracle Worker


Helen Keller penned her autobiography titled, The Story of My Life in 1902, but it wasn't until 1959 that it was adapted for the stage. The Broadway production was directed by Arthur Penn and written by William Gibson. Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, little known actresses at the time, played the leading roles of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and received rave reviews for their performances.

Despite those positive reviews, United Artists made it clear to Penn and Gibson that they preferred bigger names in the proposed film version of the story. Reportedly, the studio made the following offer: " We'll give you $5 million if you do it with Liz Taylor, $500,000 if you make it with Bancroft." The choice to keep Bancroft in the leading role speaks to the way in which the creative team viewed Bancroft's performance. They remained committed to their original cast members and the studio acquiesced.

During the filming of The Miracle Worker (1962), both Bancroft and Duke became so immersed in their roles, they put their health at risk. For the famous dining room battle scene, which required three cameras for a nine-minute sequence and took five days to film, both actresses wore pads beneath their clothing. At one point during the filming, Bancroft started laughing from sheer exhaustion and her reaction was left in the film. In fact, Bancroft was hospitalized with pneumonia just after filming was complete. As for Duke, she later admitted she dreaded the final wrap-up of the film because it meant her final separation from a role that had become such an important part of her life.

The Miracle Worker was responsible for launching the careers of both stars. Bancroft, who up until that point had been cast in mediocre movies, such as Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953) and Gorilla at Large (1954) went on to starring roles in The Graduate (1967) and The Turning Point (1978). Patty Duke, just 15 at the time the movie was made, went on to star in her own sitcom, The Patty Duke Show (1963-66).

That same year, Bette Davis was also nominated for Best Actress for her role in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. However, her co-star in the movie and longtime rival, Joan Crawford, was passed over by the Academy. In an effort to upstage her nemesis, Crawford wrote congratulatory letters to each of the other nominees - Katharine Hepburn for Long Day's Journey into Night, Geraldine Page for Sweet Bird of Youth, Lee Remick for Days of Wine and Roses - in addition to Anne Bancroft. In Crawford's letter, she extended an offer to accept the award on the actresses' behalf, if for some reason they were unable to attend the ceremony.

Bancroft, who was in New York working on Broadway in the production of Mother Courage at the time, was torn about leaving the play for the Oscar® ceremony. She sought advice from Mel Brooks, who she was dating at the time (They married in 1964). When he saw the list of the other nominees, he advised her to stay at work. So, Bancroft accepted Joan Crawford's offer to accept her award - just in case.

On the night of the awards, when Anne Bancroft was declared the Best Actress winner, Bette Davis stood waiting in the wings. Suddenly, Joan Crawford brushed by her saying, "Pardon me, but I have an Oscar® to accept."

Meanwhile, Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks were watching TV at their home in New York. When her name was called, Bancroft and Brooks were elated. Then, Anne watched as an equally excited Crawford accepted her award. Struck by Crawford's appearance, Bancroft said, "My God! Joan Crawford looks like me!"

For the record, The Miracle Worker was nominated for five Academy Awards® including Best Actress (Bancroft), Best Supporting Actress (Duke), Best Director (Arthur Penn) and Best Screenplay (William Gibson).

Director: Arthur Penn
Producer: Fred Coe
Screenwriter: William Gibson
Composer: Laurence Rosenthal
Editor: Aram Avakian
Art Director: Mel Bourne, George Jenkins
Costume Designer: Ruth Morley
Cast: Anne Bancroft (Annie Sullivan), Patty Duke (Helen Keller), Victor Jory (Capt. Keller), Inga Swenson (Kate Keller), Andrew Prine (James Keller)
BW-107m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive video.

by Mary Anne Melear
The Miracle Worker

The Miracle Worker

Helen Keller penned her autobiography titled, The Story of My Life in 1902, but it wasn't until 1959 that it was adapted for the stage. The Broadway production was directed by Arthur Penn and written by William Gibson. Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, little known actresses at the time, played the leading roles of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and received rave reviews for their performances. Despite those positive reviews, United Artists made it clear to Penn and Gibson that they preferred bigger names in the proposed film version of the story. Reportedly, the studio made the following offer: " We'll give you $5 million if you do it with Liz Taylor, $500,000 if you make it with Bancroft." The choice to keep Bancroft in the leading role speaks to the way in which the creative team viewed Bancroft's performance. They remained committed to their original cast members and the studio acquiesced. During the filming of The Miracle Worker (1962), both Bancroft and Duke became so immersed in their roles, they put their health at risk. For the famous dining room battle scene, which required three cameras for a nine-minute sequence and took five days to film, both actresses wore pads beneath their clothing. At one point during the filming, Bancroft started laughing from sheer exhaustion and her reaction was left in the film. In fact, Bancroft was hospitalized with pneumonia just after filming was complete. As for Duke, she later admitted she dreaded the final wrap-up of the film because it meant her final separation from a role that had become such an important part of her life. The Miracle Worker was responsible for launching the careers of both stars. Bancroft, who up until that point had been cast in mediocre movies, such as Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953) and Gorilla at Large (1954) went on to starring roles in The Graduate (1967) and The Turning Point (1978). Patty Duke, just 15 at the time the movie was made, went on to star in her own sitcom, The Patty Duke Show (1963-66). That same year, Bette Davis was also nominated for Best Actress for her role in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?. However, her co-star in the movie and longtime rival, Joan Crawford, was passed over by the Academy. In an effort to upstage her nemesis, Crawford wrote congratulatory letters to each of the other nominees - Katharine Hepburn for Long Day's Journey into Night, Geraldine Page for Sweet Bird of Youth, Lee Remick for Days of Wine and Roses - in addition to Anne Bancroft. In Crawford's letter, she extended an offer to accept the award on the actresses' behalf, if for some reason they were unable to attend the ceremony. Bancroft, who was in New York working on Broadway in the production of Mother Courage at the time, was torn about leaving the play for the Oscar® ceremony. She sought advice from Mel Brooks, who she was dating at the time (They married in 1964). When he saw the list of the other nominees, he advised her to stay at work. So, Bancroft accepted Joan Crawford's offer to accept her award - just in case. On the night of the awards, when Anne Bancroft was declared the Best Actress winner, Bette Davis stood waiting in the wings. Suddenly, Joan Crawford brushed by her saying, "Pardon me, but I have an Oscar® to accept." Meanwhile, Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks were watching TV at their home in New York. When her name was called, Bancroft and Brooks were elated. Then, Anne watched as an equally excited Crawford accepted her award. Struck by Crawford's appearance, Bancroft said, "My God! Joan Crawford looks like me!" For the record, The Miracle Worker was nominated for five Academy Awards® including Best Actress (Bancroft), Best Supporting Actress (Duke), Best Director (Arthur Penn) and Best Screenplay (William Gibson). Director: Arthur Penn Producer: Fred Coe Screenwriter: William Gibson Composer: Laurence Rosenthal Editor: Aram Avakian Art Director: Mel Bourne, George Jenkins Costume Designer: Ruth Morley Cast: Anne Bancroft (Annie Sullivan), Patty Duke (Helen Keller), Victor Jory (Capt. Keller), Inga Swenson (Kate Keller), Andrew Prine (James Keller) BW-107m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive video. by Mary Anne Melear

Quotes

All's fair in love and war.
- Annie Sullivan
This is not war.
- Keller
Well, it's not love!
- Annie Sullivan
Pity for this tyrant? Is there anything she wants she doesn't get? I'll tell you what I pity... that the sun won't rise and set for her all her life, and every day you're telling her it will. What you and your pity do will destroy her, Captain Keller.
- Anne Sullivan
It's less trouble to feel sorry for her than it is to teach her anything better.
- Anne Sullivan

Trivia

Ingrid Bergman claimed in her autobiography that she was offered the film role of Annie Sullivan.

Notes

Exteriors filmed in New Jersey.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted Best Actress (Bancroft) and One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1962 National Board of Review.

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States February 2007

Released in United States January 1994

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Homage) February 8-18, 2007.

Re-released in Paris February 20, 1991.

Released in United States 1962

Released in United States January 1994 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (Tribute to Arthur Penn) in Park City, Utah January 20-30, 1994.)

Released in United States February 2007 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Homage) February 8-18, 2007.)