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Eighteen-year-old Esther has been deaf and blind since the accident which killed her mother. Wealthy Margaret Landi, a native of Esther's village in Ireland, is talked into helping to educate and possibly heal Esther. Margaret grows to love Esther as a daughter, but finds Esther's innocence threatened by sleazy promoters and her own sleazy ex-husband. Radiant performance by Heather Sears. Based on a book that nearly had Helen Keller's co-workers suing for libel due to perceived parallels between Carlo Landi and the husband of Annie Sullivan. Written by
Very strange and violent tale of a lonely wife (Joan Crawford) who travels the world seeking some meaning because her estranged husband (Rossano Brazzi) has abandoned her. In the Irish village of her birth, a local priest steers her toward a girl who was traumatized in an explosion. The girl is blind and deaf and lives like an animal with a local hag. Crawford decides to try to help the girl but becomes attached and takes her to America.
Part "Miracle Worker" and part "Elmer Gantry" (this film predates both), "The Story of Esther Costello" wavers between instructional (how to teach the blind- deaf) and exploitive (how to bilk the public). An odd film for 1957 and Crawford's last starring film of the 50s. She wouldn't return to the screen until "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?"
Well 53-year-old Crawford looks great and turns in a solid performance. Brazzi plays the snaky husband who turns out to be much more rotten than you'd guess. Heather Sears plays Esther as though she is a disciple of Jennifer Jones as Bernadette. Ron Randell is good as the crabby press agent; Lee Patterson is good as the boy friend; Bessie Love (one of Crawford's silent-film pals from 1920s MGM) is funny as a gallery patron; Fay Compton plays the head nun; Dennis O'Dea is the priest; Estelle Brody plays Tammy; John Loder is a friend. Good cast in a solid but too-long film.
The violent ending is quite jarring and unexpected.
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