The Miracle Worker (1962)

106 mins | Biography | 23 May 1962

Director:

Arthur Penn

Writer:

William Gibson

Producer:

Fred Coe

Cinematographer:

Ernesto Caparros

Editor:

Aram Avakian

Production Designers:

George Jenkins, Mel Bourne

Production Company:

Playfilms Productions
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HISTORY

The 9 May 1961 LAT announced that child actress Patty Duke would leave the Broadway cast of The Miracle Worker to reprise her role in the screen version. Principal photography began 30 May 1961, according to 2 Jun 1961 DV production charts.
       The 11 Jun 1961 NYT revealed that Duke’s co-star, Anne Bancroft, researched her role by studying the “manual alphabet,” living in a state of simulated blindness, and observing disabled children. Duke was already considered expert at portraying deaf, sightless Helen Keller following nineteen months in the stage production and a 1957 television version. Arthur Penn, who directed both previous versions as well as the film, intended to compress the action for the screen, rather than expand it. Interior scenes were filmed at the West Twenty-sixth Street Production Center in New York City, currently known as Chelsea Studios. Exteriors were filmed at two unidentified New Jersey locations. Production was expected to last seven weeks. A news item in the 28 Aug 1962 LAT noted that the replica nineteenth-century “Bisque” doll, which Patty Duke used as a weapon throughout the picture, was made of soft plastic so as not to injure Anne Bancroft.
       The 16 May 1962 LAT and 20 May 1962 NYT stated that Penn spent a total of ten months preparing and filming the picture, and another ten months editing. The 3 May 1962 LAT noted that a stage production opened at the Players Ring Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, weeks before the picture debuted. According to the 25 Mar ... More Less

The 9 May 1961 LAT announced that child actress Patty Duke would leave the Broadway cast of The Miracle Worker to reprise her role in the screen version. Principal photography began 30 May 1961, according to 2 Jun 1961 DV production charts.
       The 11 Jun 1961 NYT revealed that Duke’s co-star, Anne Bancroft, researched her role by studying the “manual alphabet,” living in a state of simulated blindness, and observing disabled children. Duke was already considered expert at portraying deaf, sightless Helen Keller following nineteen months in the stage production and a 1957 television version. Arthur Penn, who directed both previous versions as well as the film, intended to compress the action for the screen, rather than expand it. Interior scenes were filmed at the West Twenty-sixth Street Production Center in New York City, currently known as Chelsea Studios. Exteriors were filmed at two unidentified New Jersey locations. Production was expected to last seven weeks. A news item in the 28 Aug 1962 LAT noted that the replica nineteenth-century “Bisque” doll, which Patty Duke used as a weapon throughout the picture, was made of soft plastic so as not to injure Anne Bancroft.
       The 16 May 1962 LAT and 20 May 1962 NYT stated that Penn spent a total of ten months preparing and filming the picture, and another ten months editing. The 3 May 1962 LAT noted that a stage production opened at the Players Ring Gallery in Los Angeles, CA, weeks before the picture debuted. According to the 25 Mar 1962 NYT and 16 Apr 1962 LAT , the film premiered 8 May 1962 at the Sutton Theatre in New York City, with proceeds benefitting Research to Prevent Blindness and the American Foundation for the Blind. The event, sponsored by several entertainment industry notables, included a tribute to Helen Keller. Bancroft and Duke attended a pre-release screening at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, on 9 May 1962, as reported in that day’s DV. The 14 May 1962 DV announced a 15 May 1962 preview at the Academy Awards Theatre, with veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck joining the audience.
       The Miracle Worker opened 23 May 1962 in New York City and Los Angeles to positive reviews. The film garnered five Academy Award nominations, including Director, Writing (Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium), and Costume Design (Black-and-White). Bancroft, nominated for Actress, and Duke nominated for Actress in a Supporting Role, won in their respective categories. Duke also received a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer—Female, while Bancroft was named Best Foreign Actress by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). In addition, the picture was an official U.S. entry at the 1963 San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain, and listed among the ten best English-language films of 1962 by the National Board of Review. Bancroft was declared Best Actress in both instances. William Gibson’s screenplay was listed among the year’s best dramas by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), and producer Fred Coe was similarly honored by the Producers Guild of America (PGA).
       The 10 Feb 1963 LAT reported the opening of Helen Keller Park on 16 Feb 1963 in Gardena, CA. The Miracle Worker screened at the park throughout the day.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Jun 1961
p. 10.
Daily Variety
2 May 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
9 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
14 May 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
22 May 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 May 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
1 Jun 1962
p. 18.
Daily Variety
21 Jun 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
30 Jul 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1963
p. 5.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
12 Nov 1963
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
9 May 1961
Section A, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
28 Aug 1962
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
5 Apr 1962
Section C, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1962
Section C, p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
13 May 1962
Section M, p. 7, 23.
Los Angeles Times
16 May 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1963
Section CS, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1963
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
15 Feb 1963
Section D, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1963
p. 23
Los Angeles Times
4 Mar 1963
Section C, p. 12.
New York Times
11 Jun 1961
Section X, p. 7.
New York Times
25 Mar 1962
p. 108.
New York Times
20 May 1962
Section SM, p. 32.
New York Times
23 May 1962
p. 38.
New York Times
24 May 1962
p. 29.
New York Times
22 Dec 1962
p. 5.
New York Times
7 Jan 1963
p. 5.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Miracle Worker by William Gibson (New York, 19 Oct 1959).
DETAILS
Release Date:
23 May 1962
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 8 May 1962
New York and Los Angeles openings: 23 May 1962
Production Date:
30 May--late July 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Playfilms Productions
Copyright Date:
23 May 1962
Copyright Number:
LP22317
Physical Properties:
Sound
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
106
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1887 Annie Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake the seemingly impossible task of teaching deaf, blind, 7-year-old Helen Keller "language" through the sense of touch. Blind herself as a child and hardened by both her early years in institutions and the death of her younger, crippled brother, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from the pampering influence of her mother and the shouting domination of her father. Though Annie succeeds in getting the family to allow her 2 weeks alone with Helen in a small garden house on the Keller property, the high-spirited and strong-willed child opposes her at every turn. At the end of the 2 weeks, however, Helen has learned to dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet of touch. She is still unable, however, to comprehend that the words she spells are names for the objects she touches. Annie asks for another week alone with Helen, but the parents, seeing the progress that has been made, insist on bringing the child back into the household. There, she attempts to revert to her former willful savagery, but Annie again opposes her. Following an outburst at the dining room table, Annie drags the child to the pump on the front lawn and forces her to refill a pitcher from which she spilled the water. As the water pours over her hands, the sudden realization that what she feels is w-a-t-e-r dawns on the child, and she grasps Annie's hand and spells out the word. Wildly excited, Helen races about spelling the name of everything she touches--pump, tree, porch, bell, mother, father. Finally, Annie identifies herself by ... +


In 1887 Annie Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake the seemingly impossible task of teaching deaf, blind, 7-year-old Helen Keller "language" through the sense of touch. Blind herself as a child and hardened by both her early years in institutions and the death of her younger, crippled brother, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from the pampering influence of her mother and the shouting domination of her father. Though Annie succeeds in getting the family to allow her 2 weeks alone with Helen in a small garden house on the Keller property, the high-spirited and strong-willed child opposes her at every turn. At the end of the 2 weeks, however, Helen has learned to dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet of touch. She is still unable, however, to comprehend that the words she spells are names for the objects she touches. Annie asks for another week alone with Helen, but the parents, seeing the progress that has been made, insist on bringing the child back into the household. There, she attempts to revert to her former willful savagery, but Annie again opposes her. Following an outburst at the dining room table, Annie drags the child to the pump on the front lawn and forces her to refill a pitcher from which she spilled the water. As the water pours over her hands, the sudden realization that what she feels is w-a-t-e-r dawns on the child, and she grasps Annie's hand and spells out the word. Wildly excited, Helen races about spelling the name of everything she touches--pump, tree, porch, bell, mother, father. Finally, Annie identifies herself by spelling out "teacher." +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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