The Miracle Worker (1962 film)

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The Miracle Worker
Original poster
Directed byArthur Penn
Screenplay byWilliam Gibson
Based onThe Miracle Worker
by William Gibson
Produced byFred Coe
StarringAnne Bancroft
Patty Duke
CinematographyErnesto Caparrós
Edited byAram Avakian
Music byLaurence Rosenthal
Playfilm Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • July 28, 1962 (1962-07-28)
Running time
106 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.3 million
Box office$2 million (US/Canada)[1]

The Miracle Worker is a 1962 American biographical film about Anne Sullivan, blind tutor to Helen Keller, directed by Arthur Penn. The screenplay by William Gibson is based on his 1959 play of the same title, which originated as a 1957 broadcast of the television anthology series Playhouse 90. Gibson's secondary source material was The Story of My Life, the 1903 autobiography of Helen Keller.

The film went on to be an instant critical success and a moderate commercial success. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director for Arthur Penn, and won two awards, Best Actress for Anne Bancroft and Best Supporting Actress for Patty Duke, the latter of whom, at age 16, became the youngest competitive Oscar winner at the time.[a]


Young Helen Keller, blind and deaf since infancy due to a severe illness, is frustrated and angry by her inability to communicate and subject to frequent uncontrollable outbursts. Unable to deal with her, her terrified and helpless parents contact the Perkins School for the Blind for assistance. In response, they send Anne Sullivan, a former student, to the Keller home as a tutor. A battle of wills ensues as Anne breaks down Helen's walls of silence and darkness through persistence, love, and sheer stubbornness, starting by teaching Helen to make a connection between her hand signs and the objects in Helen's world for which they stand.


Production notes[edit]

Despite Anne Bancroft's award-winning performance as Anne Sullivan in the Broadway production, United Artists executives wanted Elizabeth Taylor to be cast in this role in the film adaptation. However Arthur Penn (who had also directed the stage production) insisted on using Bancroft. As a result, the studio viewed the film as a risky prospect and granted Penn only a tight budget of $1,300,000 (of which $200,000 was spent in purchasing the rights to the play).[2]

In addition, despite the fact that Patty Duke had played Helen Keller in the play, she almost did not get the part. The reason was that at 15 she was considered too old to portray a seven-year-old girl, but after Bancroft had been cast as Anne, Duke was chosen to play Helen in the film.[3]

For the dining room battle scene, in which Anne tries to teach Helen proper table manners, both Bancroft and Duke wore padding beneath their costumes to prevent serious bruising during the intense physical skirmish. The nine-minute sequence required three cameras and took five days to film.[4]

The film was shot at Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, California,[5] and Middletown, New Jersey.[6]


In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote:

The absolutely tremendous and unforgettable display of physically powerful acting that Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke put on in William Gibson's stage play The Miracle Worker is repeated by them in the film ... But because the physical encounters between the two ... seem to be more frequent and prolonged than they were in the play and are shown in close-ups, which dump the passion and violence right into your lap, the sheer rough-and-tumble of the drama becomes more dominant than it was on the stage ... The bruising encounters between the two ... are intensely significant of the drama and do excite strong emotional response. But the very intensity of them and the fact that it is hard to see the difference between the violent struggle to force the child to obey ... and the violent struggle to make her comprehend words makes for sameness in these encounters and eventually an exhausting monotony. This is the disadvantage of so much energy. However, Miss Bancroft's performance does bring to life and reveal a wondrous woman with great humor and compassion as well as athletic skill. And little Miss Duke, in those moments when she frantically pantomimes her bewilderment and desperate groping, is both gruesome and pitiable.[7]

TV Guide rates the film 412 out of a possible five stars and calls it "a harrowing, painfully honest, sometimes violent journey, astonishingly acted and rendered".[8]

Time Out London wrote:

It's a stunningly impressive piece of work ... deriving much of its power from the performances. Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft spark off each other with a violence and emotional honesty rarely seen in the cinema, lighting up each other's loneliness, vulnerability, and plain fear. What is in fact astonishing is the way that, while constructing a piece of very carefully directed and intelligently written melodrama, Penn manages to avoid sentimentality or even undue optimism about the value of Helen's education, and the way he achieves such a feeling of raw spontaneity in the acting.[9]

On review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, The Miracle Worker has a score of 96% based on 26 reviews, with an average of 7.9/10.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[11] Best Director Arthur Penn Nominated
Best Actress Anne Bancroft Won
Best Supporting Actress Patty Duke Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium William Gibson Nominated
Best Costume Design – Black-and-White Ruth Morley Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[12] Best Film from any Source Nominated
Best Foreign Actress Anne Bancroft Won
Directors Guild of America Awards[13] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Arthur Penn Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[14] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Anne Bancroft Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Patty Duke Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Female Won
Grand Prix Best Film Won
Laurel Awards Top Drama Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Anne Bancroft Nominated
Top Female Supporting Performance Patty Duke Won
National Board of Review Awards[15] Top Ten Films 3rd Place
Best Actress Anne Bancroft Won
Photoplay Awards Gold Medal Won
San Sebastián International Film Festival OCIC Award Arthur Penn Won
Best Actress Anne Bancroft Won
Turkish Film Critics Association Awards Best Foreign Film Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards[16] Best Written American Drama William Gibson Nominated

Other honors The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


  1. ^ The record was surpassed by Tatum O'Neal in 1974, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 10 for Paper Moon.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1962". Variety. January 9, 1963. p. 13. Please note these are rentals and not gross figures
  2. ^ Chaiken, Michael, ed. (2008). Arthur Penn: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. p. 32. ISBN 9781604731057.
  3. ^ Lu, Yuyan; Nguyen, Hanh (July 30, 2022). "15 facts you didn't know about the Helen Keller movie, "The Miracle Worker"". Salon. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  4. ^ "The Miracle Worker". Turner Classic Movies.
  5. ^ Brooks, Nancy Rivera (April 20, 1987). "Big Scene Change Planned for Famed Old Movie Ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  6. ^ Whitty, Stephen (July 12, 2014). "Family Viewing: 'The Miracle Worker'". Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  7. ^ Bosley, Crowther (May 24, 1962). "Screen: 'The Miracle Worker' Opens". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "The Miracle Worker Reviews". TV Guide. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009.
  9. ^ "The Miracle Worker". Time Out London. Archived from the original on February 3, 2009.
  10. ^ "The Miracle Worker (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  11. ^ "The 35th Academy Awards (1963) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  12. ^ "BAFTA Awards: Film in 1963". BAFTA. 1963. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  13. ^ "15th DGA Awards". Directors Guild of America Awards. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  14. ^ "The Miracle Worker – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "1962 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  16. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on December 5, 2012. Retrieved June 6, 2010.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 13, 2011.
  18. ^ "AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores Nominees" (PDF). American Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 13, 2011.
  19. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 12, 2024.

External links[edit]