Not all heroes go to war or discover groundbreaking inventions, some triumph over adversity in more domestic ways, like the two leading roles in this fact-based film. Helen Keller, who lost her sight and hearing at the age of 19 months, would learn to communicate through the determined efforts of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. She would spend the rest of her 88 years as an advocate for people with disabilities, for women’s rights and for peace. The first dramatization of their story was a Playhouse 90 episode written by William Gibson, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Theresa Wright and Patty McCormack. By the time Gibson and Penn got it to Broadway, it starred Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Although the play was a huge hit and won Bancroft a Tony Award, when United Artists picked up the rights, they offered the writer and director a $2 million budget to cast a major star like Elizabeth Taylor or Audrey Hepburn. Instead, they insisted on using Bancroft and Duke, which led UA to drop the budget to only $500,000. Yet, the small budget made an intimate, powerful film about Sullivan’s efforts to teach Keller to communicate, and the film became a major hit that brought both female stars Oscars.
(d. Arthur Penn, 106m, 35mm)
In attendance: actor Andrew Prine