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Deliverance (1919)

The true story of Helen Keller, who lost her vision and hearing at the age of two, was considered a hopeless case, but who through the diligent aid of teacher Anne Sullivan became a ... See full summary »


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Complete credited cast:
Etna Ross Etna Ross ... Young Helen Keller
Tula Belle Tula Belle ... Young Nadja
Edith Lyle ... Younger Anne Sullivan (as Edythe Lyle)
Betty Schade ... Mrs. Kate Adams Keller as a young woman
Jenny Lind Jenny Lind ... Martha Washington
Sarah Lind Sarah Lind ... Mammy
Ann Mason Ann Mason ... Helen Keller as a young woman
Helen Keller ... Herself
Anne Sullivan Anne Sullivan ... Herself
Kate Adams Keller Kate Adams Keller ... Herself
Phillips Brooks Keller Phillips Brooks Keller ... Himself
Polly Thompson Polly Thompson ... Helen's secretary
Ardita Mellinina Ardita Mellinina ... Nadja
J. Parks Jones J. Parks Jones ... Nadja's son


The true story of Helen Keller, who lost her vision and hearing at the age of two, was considered a hopeless case, but who through the diligent aid of teacher Anne Sullivan became a world-renowned figure of accomplishment and brilliance, as well as an example of the power of the human soul to overcome adversity. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama





Release Date:

18 August 1919 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

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User Reviews

See me, hear me, touch me
20 August 2003 | by F Gwynplaine MacIntyreSee all my reviews

There is a damaged and incomplete print of this film in the Library of Congress; some effort is underway to make it available on video.

It's a shame that the 1919 film 'Deliverance' has the same title as a much better-known film about hillbilly sodomites. 'Deliverance' (this one) is a clumsily-made film, poorly paced, yet it's absolutely compelling because of the true story behind it.

This film is the life story of Helen Keller, made with her active participation. Inevitably, this movie covers the same ground as the much better-known 'The Miracle Worker'. 'Deliverance' is organised in a triptych format, depicting Helen Keller's life in three acts: as a child, as a young woman, and in the present day (1919) when she is an inspirational world figure.

We see Helen at age six (played by a very impressive child actress), utterly blind and deaf from infancy: mute, cut off from nearly all human contact. (Ms Keller lost her eyesight and hearing to scarlet fever, but this is not adequately explained in the film.) We see the famous scene in which Anne Sullivan pumps water into Helen's hand whilst spelling out the manual alphabet word for 'water' into her fingers. Despite the tableau staging, these scenes are profoundly moving because we recognise them as real events. The early sequences are largely marred by the depiction of some stereotypical black servants in the Keller household. In real life, Keller's father had been an officer in the Confederate army, but somehow I find the Keller family's servants more servile than they need to be for a story set in this time and place.

The middle sequence shows Helen Keller in her 20s, now able to speak (crudely) and attending college with Anne Sullivan translating the texts into Braille for her. This film does not dwell on the central irony of Helen Keller's life: namely that, in order for her to interact with the world, another person (Anne Sullivan) had to dedicate her own eyes and ears to Helen Keller's purposes.

Also, because this is a silent film, we are all necessarily deafened along with Ms Keller, and cannot fully grasp the isolation of her own silent existence within the world of hearing people (as this entire film is set in silence). I've heard Hellen Keller's voice in some sound-era newsreels: it's a shame that 'Deliverance' (lacking a soundtrack) is unable fully to convey her efforts to be able to speak coherently whilst unable to hear her own words.

In the final and most inspirational sequence, we see the real Helen Keller working tirelessly as a public figure to improve conditions for other blind people, and helping them to learn useful trades. (Another irony: none of those blind people could have appreciated this film.) Speaking directly to the camera, she also conveys (via silent-film titles) her belief in an almighty and benevolent deity. What a remarkable woman Helen Keller was. Much of 'Deliverance' is clumsy, but every frame of this movie is fascinating, and some of it is positively riveting. I'll rate 'Deliverance' 8 out of 10.

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