Wednesday, November 4, 2015

BUCKET LIST UPDATE No. 241: Watch “The Miracle Worker” (1962)

One of Alabama’s most famous citizens is Helen Keller, who achieved much during her life despite the fact that she grew up both blind and deaf. In April 2014, as part of my ongoing “bucket list” series, I read Keller’s 1902 autobiography, “The Story of My Life.” This book was the basis for the screenplay of the 1962 film, “The Miracle Worker,” a popular film about Keller that was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Like most people, I’d heard of this movie before and was somewhat familiar with it, but I couldn’t honestly say that I’d seen it from start to finish. For this reason, I put it on my bucket list a couple of years ago and finally took the time to watch it on Sunday. Having now watched this movie, I can now see what it received so many Academy Award nominations.

“The Miracle Worker” was released on July 28, 1962 and was directed by Arthur Penn. Patty Duke played the role of Helen Keller; Anne Bancroft played her teacher Anne Sullivan; and other cast members included Victor Jory, Inga Swenson and Andrew Prine. Bancroft would later win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and Duke was the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, this movie shows how Keller’s good-intentioned family struggled to raise a deafblind child and how the ended up hiring Sullivan to be her teacher. The movie goes on to how not only Sullivan’s struggles with Keller, but also the hard time she had convincing Keller’s family to go along with her methods of helping Keller. The movie makes it very clear that not only was Keller a special individual, but Sullivan was a genuine Saint of a woman.

One thing that I thought was interesting about this movie is that it stops pretty much at the point where Sullivan and Keller make their big break-through, that is, when Sullivan helps Keller make the connection between Sullivan’s sign-language and running water. Only so much can go into a two-hour movie, so much of what Keller goes on to accomplish is left out of the film. I suspect the stage play version of the story is much the same.

I also think this is a great movie for kids to watch. It not only shows them what people can do despite their handicaps, but it also demonstrates the importance of learning and education. Also, if nothing else, it makes you feel thankful for being able to see and hear, something most of us take for granted.

Now that I’ve seen “The Miracle Worker,” I’m left wanting to visit Keller’s birthplace and childhood home, “Ivy Green,” in Tuscumbia, Ala. Tuscumbia also hosts an annual Helen Keller Festival every June, and you can also see stage play versions of “The Miracle Worker” while in Tuscumbia. I’ll probably be adding these items to my bucket list next year.

In the end, how many of you have watched “The Miracle Worker”? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

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