The Miracle Worker (1962)

The Miracle Worker
Directed by Arthur Penn
Written by William Gibson based on his play and the book by Helen Keller
Playfilm Productions
Repeat viewing/Netflix

Annie Sullivan: I wanted to teach her what language is. I know without it to do nothing but obey is no gift. Obedience without understanding is a blindness too. Is that all I’ve wished on her?

Spectacular acting meets a powerful, inspirational story.

This is based on the true story of Helen Keller (Patty Duke), who, at nineteen months, was stricken by an illness that left her deaf and blind.  Her doting family responded by letting her do what ever she wanted to, eventually resulting in an out-of-control “wild child”.  The violence of Helen’s outbursts could no longer be tolerated.  After much hesitation, the family sent for a teacher and Annie Sullivan (Anne Bancroft) came into their lives.  Since Sullivan also had a visual impairment she could relate somewhat to Helen’s challenges.

Annie sensed an innate intelligence in her pupil and was determined that Helen would learn to behave, obey, and communicate.  The early days of Helen’s education were accompanied by Helen’s violent physical attempts to resist obedience but Annie was persistent.  The real miracle however came when Helen finally learned the relationship between objects and the words that label them.  With Victor Jory as Helen’s father and Inga Swenson as her mother.

This movie is exhausting but so worth it!  The acting is nothing short of mind-blowing.  You will believe every second that Helen can neither see nor hear.  The story is a real testament to the human spirit.  Highly recommended.

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke won the Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.  The Miracle Worker was nominated in the categories of Best Director; Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.


4 thoughts on “The Miracle Worker (1962)

  1. I love this movie!

    I only saw it for the first time a few years ago, and shortly after, one of my movie-buff friends had just seen some 1960s action films and we started talking about best fight scenes of the 1960s. I offered my Top Two:

    1) King Kong and Godzilla in King Kong vs. Godzilla (because I have to name-drop this movie whenever possible), and

    2) Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker.

    My friend laughed and said he couldn’t argue with either choice.

  2. “The Miracle Worker” is one of those films I can rewatch and rewatch. I guess I’ve moved from finding it exhausting to finding it exhilarating. It inspired me as a young person and it still inspires me today. My parents were fortunate to see Patty Duke on stage in the play. When they returned from New York City, they told me all about this amazing little girl and her phenomenal performance. Even their telling of it deeply impressed me.

    • For some strange reason, The Miracle Worker wasn’t available to me during the other times I have done a similar exercise (“Fixing the Oscars). It sure was worth waiting for this rewatch. I also read Keller’s book at a young age so I’ve always been a fan.

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