DirectorArthur Penn Story byHelen Keller CountryUnited States
Release dateJuly 28, 1962 (1962-07-28) WriterWilliam Gibson (screenplay), William Gibson (based upon the stage play by) AwardsAcademy Award for Best Actress NominationsAcademy Award for Best Director CastAnne Bancroft (Annie Sullivan), Patty Duke (Helen Keller), Victor Jory (Captain Arthur Keller), Inga Swenson (Kate Keller), Andrew Prine (James Keller), Kathleen Comegys (Aunt Ev) Similar moviesBad Teacher, The Hunt, J. Edgar, In the House, To Sir, with Love, Blue Is the Warmest Color
TaglineAn emotional earthquake!
The Miracle Worker is a 1962 American biographical film about Anne Sullivan, blind tutor to Helen Keller, directed by Arthur Penn. The screenplay by William Gibson is based on his 1959 play of the same title, which originated as a 1957 broadcast of the television anthology series Playhouse 90. Gibson's original source material was The Story of My Life, the 1902 autobiography of Helen Keller.
The film went on to be an instant critical success and a moderate commercial success. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director for Arthur Penn, and won two awards, Best Actress for Anne Bancroft and Best Supporting Actress for Patty Duke. The Miracle Worker also holds a perfect 100% score from the movie critics site Rotten Tomatoes.
Helen keller water scene from the miracle worker
Young Helen Keller (Patty Duke), blind and deaf since infancy due to a severe case of scarlet fever, is frustrated by her inability to communicate and subject to frequent violent and uncontrollable outbursts as a result. Unable to deal with her, her terrified and helpless parents contact the Perkins School for the Blind for assistance. In response they send Anne Sullivan (Anne Bancroft), a former student, to the Keller home to tutor her. What ensues is a battle of wills as Anne breaks down Helen's walls of silence and darkness through persistence, love, and sheer stubbornness. In the midst of the battle, Anne ultimately teaches Helen to make a connection between her hand signs and the objects in Helen's world for which they stand.
Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan
Patty Duke as Helen Keller
Victor Jory as Captain Arthur Keller
Inga Swenson as Kate Keller
Andrew Prine as James Keller
Kathleen Comegys as Aunt Ev
Beah Richards as Viney (uncredited)
Jack Hollander as Mr. Anagnos (uncredited)
Michael Darden as Percy (uncredited)
Dale Ellen Bethea as Martha (uncredited)
John Bliss as Admissions Officer (uncredited)
Judith Lowry as 1st Crone (uncredited)
William F. Haddock as 2nd Crone (uncredited)
Helen Ludlam as 3rd Crone (uncredited)
In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther observed, "The absolutely tremendous and unforgettable display of physically powerful acting that Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke put on in William Gibson's stage play The Miracle Worker is repeated by them in the film . . . But because the physical encounters between the two . . . seem to be more frequent and prolonged than they were in the play and are shown in close-ups, which dump the passion and violence right into your lap, the sheer rough-and-tumble of the drama becomes more dominant than it was on the stage . . . The bruising encounters between the two . . . are intensely significant of the drama and do excite strong emotional response. But the very intensity of them and the fact that it is hard to see the difference between the violent struggle to force the child to obey . . . and the violent struggle to make her comprehend words makes for sameness in these encounters and eventually an exhausting monotony. This is the disadvantage of so much energy. However, Miss Bancroft's performance does bring to life and reveal a wondrous woman with great humor and compassion as well as athletic skill. And little Miss Duke, in those moments when she frantically pantomimes her bewilderment and desperate groping, is both gruesome and pitiable."
TV Guide rates the film 4½ out of a possible five stars and calls it "a harrowing, painfully honest, sometimes violent journey, astonishingly acted and rendered."
Time Out London opined, "It's a stunningly impressive piece of work . . . deriving much of its power from the performances. Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft spark off each other with a violence and emotional honesty rarely seen in the cinema, lighting up each other's loneliness, vulnerability, and plain fear. What is in fact astonishing is the way that, while constructing a piece of very carefully directed and intelligently written melodrama, Penn manages to avoid sentimentality or even undue optimism about the value of Helen's education, and the way he achieves such a feeling of raw spontaneity in the acting."
Awards and honors
Academy Award for Best Actress (Anne Bancroft, winner)
Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Patty Duke, winner)
Academy Award for Best Director (Arthur Penn, nominee)
Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (William Gibson, nominee)
Academy Award for Best Black-and-White Costume Design (Ruth Morley, nominee)
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists: