The Miracle Worker (1962) Poster

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MW: One one of the reasons I fell in love with film as art
gevaultski22 May 2000
Although I am a long-time Patty Duke admirer, and thus far from objective, this film still stands the test of time. This is the kind of filmmaking that prompted me to fall in love with the movies. Brilliantly inspired writing by William Gibson, from his equally inspired play. Intelligent, austere direction by Arthur Penn (one of the true gentlemen and masters of the American cinema); Penn had the sense to retain the inate artistry and grit of the original stage play and simply allow the camera to capture the actors' intuitive - albeit, well rehearsed, performances, recreating their stage roles which generated an unheard-of 19 curtain calls when it first graced the stage in its Philadephia opening. The film, in stark, black and white, speaks total reality to the film audience of 1962 - and, of course, well beyond that year. Finally, one would be hard pressed to think of another film that so exquisitely defines the term "2-character" study. Bancroft and Duke deliver A-plus, no bones about it, top-drawer, performances. It is a film about the undaunted human spirit and our need to communicate. Although much has been written about 11-minute breakfast donneybrook, which is certainly wonderful cinema to behold, the entire film is breathtaking from opening credits to the final scenes. I dare anyone to even breathe during the climactic water pump scene when teacher Annie Sullivan finally "connects" and communicates with her "unreachable" charge, the deaf, blind, young Helen Keller. It's an absolutely astonishing, "can't take your eyes off it," moment of celluloid. Duke, Bancroft and Penn worked beatifully to create this incredibly touching masterpiece of dramatic filmmaking, which is not without its moments of "comedy," as all fine dramas are capable of conveying. It is a film which breathes life - and it is especially brought to life by two of the best actresses America has ever produced. The Miracle Worker is a story and film portraying real human courage, patience and individual, personal will. It continues to live in my memory as a work of art that has rarely been equalled before - or since - on screen.
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An Exceptional Movie That Appeals to the Imagination
Snow Leopard21 December 2004
With two terrific leading performances, an absorbing and thought-provoking story, and many well-conceived touches by Arthur Penn and his production team, this classic version of "The Miracle Worker" is an exceptional movie that appeals to the imagination and that has much to say about humanity. The story itself is so good that even the lesser remakes have been worth seeing, but there is really no reason at all to look any further than this nearly flawless filming of the story.

As Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke could not have been better. The battle of wills and wits between the two is engrossing, becoming quite involved and very interesting. The lengthy dining room struggle alone would make any movie worth watching - it is worthwhile even beyond the interesting action itself, as it brings out aspects of human nature and human learning that go beyond even Helen's own trials.

There is a great deal of substance to the movie that goes beyond the immediate issues and confrontations, and a significant reason for the greatness of the film is the way that Bancroft and Duke tap into the imagination of the viewer. The concept of seeing an unseen world (and the challenge of helping someone to see it) is brought out in ways that are profound yet accessible.

The two leads carry almost the whole picture, as the other characters are there primarily for Annie and Helen to play off of. Accordingly, the supporting cast keep their characters more simple, and their performances stylized and almost exaggerated, which allows Bancroft and Duke to have most of the moments of significance. The production also enhances the picture through simple but well-conceived settings, use of lighting, and other features that nicely complement the main action.

It's always rather unfortunate that movies like this one, which take a little effort to appreciate fully, are not given more attention. If you stop to consider what Helen Keller had to face in life, it is a situation far more terrifying than facing any of the cartoonish, artificial movie villains that gain so much notoriety. And if you consider the job that Annie Sullivan had to do, her accomplishment is far more impressive and worthwhile than almost any scientific discovery, feat of athletics, or military exploit.

That this movie is able to convey such themes makes it a memorable classic that is much more worthwhile than many movies that have received far more acclaim.
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A Story That Needed To Be Told
rockstar7422 May 2004
An inspiring movie. I watch it now at the age of 48 and I remember why I idolized Anne Bancroft and tried to emulate her acting style when I was a theatre student. I still cry during the final scene at the water pump when she cries out - mother, father - she knows!!!! Thank God that Penn and Gibson made sure that she got this movie part. I still wish she would have gotten the the part of Gittel Mosca for the movie version of their broadway play "Two For The Seesaw" because I will never be able to see her performance. Patty Duke was magnificent. She was very convincing and there is never a moment when you don't think she is deaf, dumb and blind. There is no doubt that this pair deserved the Academy Award for their performances. Helen's story needed to be told and this film was a beautiful and poignant tribute to her life
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Miracle director
dbdumonteil29 July 2001
Where do I begin? Shall I speak of Mrs Bancroft's performance,one of the finest you can watch on a screen?Shall I tell about Patty Duke's tour de force?Shall I praise the mind-boggling work of Arthur Penn,directing the long fight around the table?This movie is a miracle in itself.Behind her dark spectacles,the teacher hides buried terrors,that's why she's bound to understand her unusual pupil.She knows that the solution to her problems lies in herself,that the family is a prison .The parents do not see(or do not want to see) that they erect a wall between their daughter and the world outside by poisoning her with protection.That's why Annie seems brutal,hard on Helen.She could not have broken the wall if she had been a "nice" teacher.Among all Penn's great movies ,"miracle worker" is the only one that has an optimistic end.Since,other directors have tackled autism(children of a lesser God,rain man)but no one has surpassed this black and white gem.
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This Isn't a Top 250 Movie?!? It Should Be!
ilikeimdb17 November 2004
I haven't seen acting like this in a long time! Patty Duke's portrayal of young Helen Keller shocked me with its intensity, rightness, and sensitivity. Anne Bancroft also played a tough role and did so brilliantly.

The other supporting roles were, of course, a bit stilted in the traditional Southern way, but added to the drama nonetheless. I still gave this movie a "10" despite having issues with the way director Penn handled the flashback scenes...a bit cheesy and not quite in keeping with the underlying plot in all cases. That said, the dinner scene with Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft is 100%+ riveting in a way seldom seen and the movie deserves its accolades just for that scene alone.
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Extremely Well Acted and Moving
shark-432 March 2004
This movie made a strong impression on me when I saw it on Tv as a lad and I have revisted it a few more times but it had been a decade since i saw it last and my daughter had a done a book report on Helen Keller recently and was very moved by her story and I mentioned the Miracle Worker, so we rented it and viewed it tonight and it still packs a wallop and the performances are first rate. Patty Duke won the best supporting oscar that year and deserved it (even though she beat out Mary Badham who played Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird -- what a year for young actresses!!!)and Anne Bancroft is amazing as the tough, determined Anne Sullivan. A wonderful film.
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This movie was awesome
jenluv9014 May 2002
Since I had read the play before hand I knew this movie would be excellent but I didn't think it would be this excellent! Anne Bancroft did a phenomenal job as Annie Sullivan, and Patty Duke as Helen made me wonder if she really was blind and deaf! I would reccommend this movie to anyone and everyone who wants to see a good flick! ~*~Jenny~*~ [Note: This version of the Miracle Worker is much better than the 1979 version of it. Melissa Gilbert was just too tall for the role of Helen!
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Fantastic performances
dove958 June 2003
I don't think I've seen a movie with such amazing performances in a LONG time! The more work I see of Anne Bancroft, the more I'm impressed with her craft. I've never seen Patty Duke in anything before, so needless to say, I was blown away by her performance as well.

The most intense acting is done without any dialogue, especially where Anne Sullivan insists that Helen learn how to eat properly.

Such incredible performances (very Oscarly deserved!) and even more incredible story to boot!
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kinolieber23 December 2001
Using the vehicle of the story of a blind and deaf girl's discovery of the meaning of words, this film poetically and emotionally celebrates that singular gift we humans possess: language. It also depicts with deep understanding and identification the glory of that early relationship we all have one way or another, that between child and teacher. There's a line that Annie Sullivan speaks about words being our vision "5000 years into the past" that could apply to this film and play: its words are our vision into the silent and sightless world of Helen Keller.

Unlike many period films shot in the sixties, this one was true to its setting. It hasn't dated a bit. And unlike many films of plays, it never seems stagebound. The black and white camerawork and editing, by people who, strangely, had very limited careers, is superb. The dining room scene is one of the most brilliantly shot and edited sequences I have ever seen. The music is subtle when it needs to be and powerfully effective in the big scenes. The use of flashbacks for Annie's troubled past is done artfully, and in a way true to the emotional content of the memories. The acting by Bancroft and Duke is of course legendary, but the supporting roles are equally well played. But it's probably the director Arthur Penn who is most responsible for the film's success. He saw the play through its journey from live television drama to Broadway to film.
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One of the Great American Films--for the Ages
middleburg17 October 2004
The Miracle Worker is one of the great American films--a film containing two

justifiably legendary performances. Anne Bancroft's Annie and Patty Duke's

Helen become such living, breathing, feeling characters. We are of course

caught up in the story and the suspense of how all the scenes will unfold, but we are also captivated. These two stunning actresses make us embrace their

characters--much as they embrace at the beautiful conclusion of this heartfelt film. They are artists of the highest order--and the entire film feels like a great, piece of music. It has a wonderful shape, moments of intense feelings,

moments of peaceful repose, and is filled with rich details to savour--Helen

tossing about in the hanging laundry, Annie's rich Scottish accent, the riveting fight scene, the moment of Helen's revelation which is one of the most

emotionally satisfying moments of any film, anywhere. The photography,

exceptional music score, and once again--that amazing acting--makes this a

film to treasure.
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Enormously moving
Howard Schumann13 June 2005
Powerfully directed by Arthur Penn and supported by two Oscar-winning performances, The Miracle Worker dramatizes the early years of Helen Keller, the blind and deaf mute who became a famous author and prominent Socialist. Anne Bancroft's first lead role is as Anne Sullivan, Helen's lifelong teacher and friend and her performance is compelling. Patty Duke is also outstanding as Helen, portraying the disturbed child as she works to overcome bad manners and temper tantrums, the result of being overly indulged by her well meaning but ineffective parents. Moving into a small cottage away from her parents, Anne, who was partially blind herself, assists Helen with some tough love and begins to teach her to spell with her fingers.

Until this point, Helen had no understanding of the meaning of words. This changed when Anne led her to the water pump and spelled out the word water as she pumped the water over Helen's hand. She is said to have learned thirty words the same day and eventually learned to read. In 1904 Helen graduated from Radcliffe College, becoming the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. The film could have easily descended into melodrama, but Penn keeps his focus and the result is enormously moving without being maudlin. The Miracle Worker is a miracle.
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One of the best films ever
SarahNM22 June 2000
I bought this movie after having not seen it for a while, and watching it again was intensely powerful. I had never cried during the "water" scene, but I did this time. The scene in the dining room is magnificently filmed and exhausting to think Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft performed that scene every night on Broadway! Supposedly they wore multiple layers of padding. I don't know why they didn't create a new category for the Oscars that year, Best Double Performance in Leading Roles. They both richly deserved the Oscars they won, but I really couldn't choose between a leading role and a supporting role in that movie since Duke and Bancroft created such a beautiful and moving partnership. Having read a great deal about Helen Keller, including her own autobiography, I am still always amazed by her story and accomplishments. This movie is a brilliant testament to human strength.
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I give this one an 11
shrinkv24 May 2000
If you don't believe cinema is art. this nearly perfect film will change your mind. It will take you through a full range of emotion. If you are ever feeling bad because your BMW needs a tune-up this will put your problems in perspective, while making you proud to be part of the human race. People can not only be miracle workers, but miracles. Knowing this movie is based on two real people, friends for a lifetime, who eventually have a major impact on their world makes this movie even more meaningful.
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Should have been on AFI 100 Best Films list
Boyo-23 December 1998
This movie is a must-see. It is completely engrossing and ultimately touching. Bancroft and Duke won and deserved Oscars. Try not to cry at their long-awaited communication; I dare you.
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Now this is acting.
johnm_0015 October 2000
Few, if any films are better acted than 1962's "The Miracle Worker". Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke more than earned their Oscars. Everyone who even thinks about acting as a profession, should be made to watch these two pros, in action. Good supporting performances from the rest of the cast. Tight and poignant direction and beautifully scored. A must see!
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A Glorious Film for Everyone to See
dnjjr13 July 2006
"The Miracle Worker" is astonishingly moving, intense, and rewarding storytelling. All of the forces involved – Ann Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, Patty Duke as Helen Keller, the supporting cast, writer William Gibson, and certainly director Arthur Penn – combine to present a straightforward, well-paced, stark, yet richly resonant retelling of Annie's early encounters with Helen.

Bancroft is magnificent as Annie, a character who is haunted by her early years of abuse and misery, not to mention nearly losing her own sight completely. But she is feisty, intelligent, and fiercely determined. She overcomes. It would take nothing less to tackle her charge. When we meet the child Helen, she is wild, animalistic, and out of the control of her parents. Patty Duke's portrayal is absolutely awe-inspiring. Her acting abilities at the (actual) age of 16 are uncanny. Watching her Helen collide with the outer world from an utterly isolated state really stirred my imagination into exploring, as it never had, how dark, unknowing, confused, and primitive such a person would be. Duke seemed to understand this about Helen on the deepest level.

The script presents a journey toward transcendent understanding on Helen's part, though it is effectively measured with a mixture of setbacks and small triumphs. Annie's journey, too, is well told: she is new to tutoring, and her constant tussles with Helen's family require the firmest belief in herself. The dining room confrontation is masterfully acted and directed. Its forceful and violently physical clash of wills leaves you exhausted. The other scene to equal it in intensity is Helen's breakthrough connection of water, indeed all things in her life, to language. Here Annie's hard work has paid off, and the floodgates open inside the ecstatic Helen. It's the peak of the film, and is guaranteed to make most of us cry after an hour and a half of unrelenting buildup.

This is one of those singular and extraordinary films that simply everybody should see. The indomitable human spirit, the capacity to adapt and grow (this applies to all members of the cast), the will to persevere through impossible odds...all of it and more is captured in this mesmerizing story.
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A first rate movie for all
jpm-1527 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*** "The Miracle Worker" is well-acted, well-crafted, and seemingly has no false notes. As good as Bancroft's performance is, I feel that Patty Duke is just transcendent as Helen, particularly in the key scene where she has the profound experience of understanding what language is. What a moving, riveting scene! It is an excellent family film (perhaps for children about 10 and up) and helps all of us remember that most of the "problems" we have are minute compared to what some people experience. Somehow I missed this film when I was younger, and perhaps that is good since one can truly appreciate it after some life experience. Don't miss it!
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Emotionally devastating
Martin Bradley23 June 2005
Arthur Penn's superb, emotionally devastating screen version of William Gibson's play about the early life of Helen Keller and of how a great dedicated teacher, Annie Sullivan, dragged her kicking, if not necessarily screaming, out of her world of darkness. Penn's style is spare and unsensational, (even finding a good deal of humour in the early encounters between teacher and pupil; deaf, dumb and blind Keller may be but she is as wily as a cat and runs rings round Sullivan). The black and white images are straightforward and uncluttered and have the power of the images in silent cinema. As Sullivan and Keller, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke are both astonishing. There is a rapport between these two actresses that seems to transcend mere 'acting' and raises the film to an altogether higher, more deeply moving plain.
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A Film to Cherish
dmwhite5021 March 2001
I have loved this movie since I first .saw it while I was in the 8th grade.The Miracle Worker is a shatteringly emotional experience and has been extremely inspirational and influencial in my own life . Why wasn't this film on the AFI 100 best list? It is a genuine classic that I love very much. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke are marvelous in the roles of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller,and certainly deserved the Oscars they won for these roles. I think I learned more about my profession of teaching than in all the college courses I took on the subject, and I think seeing this film at such a young age made me want to be a teacher. This is a film that I cherish.
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seulementmoi1011 March 2003
The Helen Keller story is inspiring all by itself, but the portrayals of Anne Sullivan and Helen (Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke) are simply flawless. I watched the newest version of the movie and thought how interesting the story was; but, as I saw the old, black-and-white version I was moved in more ways than I could count! Duke and Bancroft DO know what they are doing! This movie is one of the best productions I've ever seen and with the most amazing acting. Two superb actresses in one movie! At the end of it, it just got me wishing for this quality work in actual movies. Be sure not to miss it, even if you've seen later versions, this one is, by far, the best. A TIMELESS classic :)
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Powerful and well-acted:
Lori S3 January 1999
Both Bancroft and Duke well deserved their Oscars, recreating their Broadway stage roles for this gripping movie. Highly recommended to own, not just rent!
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An actress duel with inspiration
johno-2128 February 2006
This is certainly the definitive film adaptation of the stage play. Anne Bancroft is Anne Sullivan and Patty Duke is Helen Keller. Any other character that appears on screen is peripheral. You are only aware of two. Bancroft and Duke. Director Arthur Penn would go on to make some memorable and varied films such as Bonnie & Clyde, Alice's Restaurant, Little Big Man, The Missouri Breaks and Penn & Teller Get Killed but this is early in his theatrical directorial career and he obviously got the best out of his two Principal actors since they both won for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards. Bancroft beating out Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Geraldine Page and Lee Remick which is quite an accomplishment and Duke beating out Angela Lansbury, Thelma Ritter, Shirley Knight and child actress Mary Badham from To Kill A Mockingbird. Another impressive accomplishment. I did not see it's initial theatrical release but have seen it on TV many times although not in many years. I would give this a 9.0 out of a possible 10 and recommend it.
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Interesting note re.censorship
ChrisN1223 June 2005
I don't know if anyone else is aware of this, but 'The Miracle Worker' was awarded an X certificate (which at the time, meant that no-one under 16 could watch it, even if accompanied by a parent) by the British Board of Film Censors way back in 1962, although this was later changed to a 'PG' when the video era arrived in the 1980's. Just another example of how silly censorship used to be! (by the way, check out - this is an excellent site given details of how censors passed, or failed, every film ever distributed in the UK. For the benefit of American viewers, the MPAA (the American ratings board)also has its own website and I have visited it. Unfortunately, the ratings system only began in 1968, so it is impossible to know what the MPAA thought of 'The Miracle Worker', although one would imagine that the film would not have conflicted with the Hays code, which forbade showing a man and woman together in bed or strong language but was lenient towards mildly aggressive or disturbing scenes of the type that featured in 'The Miracle Worker'.
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In my top 100 list
I had occasion recently to revisit this wonderful movie (based on a true story) and it is still spellbinding all these years later. Many items of note - the well deserved Oscars for Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, the unforgettable scene (without dialogue)where Miss Sullivan will not let Helen Keller out of the dining room until she eats with a spoon. The story is about Miss Annie Sullivan, the miracle worker, who is hired by the Kellers to teach their daughter. the daughter, Helen, lost her sight and hearing as a result of measles (?) when she was a baby. she is not treated as child but as a pet dog by the family and her frustration is huge at not being able to communicate with anyone. She acts out with violence and rage. Annie takes her away from her family who are killing her spirit with their kindness and forces Helen to rely on her for everything and teaches her basic communication skills. The most moving scene of all is when Helen discovers there are words to be applied to all objects and the breakthrough into being able to communicate happens for her. Riveting script and performances. A must see. 9 out of 10.
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An extremely well-acted adaptation of the stage play
Gary M. James11 June 2005
I'm not certain if it was fate but it is very interesting that I had the chance to finally see "The Miracle Worker" a few days after the sad news of the death of Anne Bancroft.

The film, based on the play by William Gibson, is an extremely well-acted film, brilliantly opened up on the big screen. Anne Bancroft as teacher Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as young Helen Keller are outstanding. Sullivan's determination to communicate to the deaf and blind Helen made for a compelling story on stage as well as on screen.

I understand that when Hollywood wanted to make this movie, the powers-that-be did not want Bancroft or Duke. After finally seeing the movie, I'm glad that director Arthur Penn and producer Fred Coe chose to make this movie outside the so-called Hollywood establishment.

One scene that was discussed in some other posts was the dining room in which Sullivan forces Helen to eat food from a spoon and not her hands. It almost felt like I was watching a fierce wrestling match. It was a physical, as well as an emotionally draining, sequence. A battle of wills between teacher and the unwilling student. It was brilliantly edited and directed.

The film was not without faults. According to the IMDb, a number of flashback scenes were filmed in their entirety but did not work out very well. Those scenes were incorporated within the movie and it looked rather clumsy. The scenes could have been easily edited out completely.

As with all plays adapted to the big screen, some scenes were a little bit stagy. But that involved just a few scenes and, overall, it did not ruin the movie.

What I really liked about the movie was that the filmmakers were very successful at not succumbing to sentiment. This movie could have easily been very corny and sappy. Perhaps Bancroft and Duke and their performances had something to do with that.

I've been a fan of Anne Bancroft for many years and I'm very glad that I had the chance to see her well-deserved Oscar-winning performance.

RIP Ms. Bancroft.
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