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The Miracle Worker
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
In her 1987 autobiography "Call Me Anna," Patty Duke writes that, while portraying Helen Keller in the original Broadway production of "The Miracle Worker", she dreamed of playing the role of Helen's determined teacher Annie Sullivan. Seventeen years after she won an Academy Award as Helen opposite Anne Bancroft as Annie in Arthur Penn's brilliant 1962 film version, her dream of playing Annie finally came true. This is the rare TV production that nearly equals the power of the original; in large part due to Duke's extraordinary, intense performance. Melissa Gilbert, then the 14 year old star of the TV series "Little House On The Prarie", has a more difficult time as blind and deaf Helen Keller. Gilbert's performance is certainly admirable. It just misses, by a small margin, the ferocious quality the role of Helen requires.
Duke writes, "As you can imagine, everything about doing that play the second time around carried a terrific emotional charge for me...the years of wishing to play it, wishing to have that stature, the years of screwing up my life, and then this great gift, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, this moment of forgiveness for my transgressions. I thought I would die." Her dream role of Annie Sullivan resulted in an extremely well deserved Emmy Award; the perfect compliment to the Academy Award she received for her earlier performance as Helen. "I have to confess," Duke writes, "the Emmy I won for "The Miracle Worker" is my favorite acting honor.
In the original film, Inga Swenson and Victor Jory give overwrought performances as Helen's parents. Diana Muldair and Charles Seibert are more solid in this version. In contrast to Helen's parents, Annie does not feel any pity for Helen. "Pity? For this tyrant? The whole house turns on her whims," she says. "Is there anything she wants she doesn't get?...I pity that the sun won't rise and set for her every morning and you're telling her it will." Instead of pity, Annie recognizes Helen's hidden human potential and does not see her as impaired or "disabled" in any way. When Helen's mother asks if it is possible to teach an "impaired" child, Annie replies, "Oh, there's nothing impaired in that head. It works like a mouse-trap." During a later, heated exchange with Helen's father, Annie declares, "I treat her as a sighted child because I ask her to see... I expect her to see!" Indeed, Annie asks Helen to reach beyond any perceived limitations.
This worthwhile TV production does have a few flaws, which Patty Duke objectively acknowledged: "it's inescapable that {the TV production] wasn't as powerful as [the original film version]...the choreography of the production was in general lacking in intensity," she writes. The TV production also loses some dramatic intensity because it is in color, and "The Miracle Worker" is much better suited to black and white; like the original 1962 film. Still, there's plenty of emotional power in William Gibson's strong script, and when the battle of wills between Annie and Helen finally results in an amazing triumph, there won't be a dry eye in the audience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2006
This is the 1979 made for television remake of the 1962 theatrical movie The Miracle worker, in that movie Patty Duke played Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft played her teacher Annie Sullivan but in this remake Helen keller is played by Melissa Gilbert and Patty Duke played Annie Sullivan. I saw this remake before I saw the original and I liked it and think that both Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert were very good and this is a very inspirational, heartwarming story. The Miracle Worker is based on the real story of Helen Keller who was left, deaf, blind and mute when she had gotten sick when she was a baby. Annie Sullivan is the teacher who trys to teach Helen how to be able to communicate in a world that she doesn't understand. The original movie is very good too and there is another remake that stars Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Helen Keller but I haven't seen that version yet.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2004
I teach this play so I have seen both this version and the 1962 version many times. I must say that I think the "62 version is better in many respects. The performances of the leads in that version truly set the mark for this play and probably couldn't be equaled by anyone else. In the remake, the performances are not quite as good although they are certainly first class performers doing excellent work. What makes this verion better for classroom use, is the color photography and the settings. Those not used to black and white, as my students are not, tend to find the '62 version slightly depressing. I remember when this verion was first televised the marketing factor was Patty Duke and the role reversal for this version. She is an excellent actress and is very good as Annie. The actors playing Mrs. Keller and James are also good, but I find the actor playing Captain Keller far less forceful than Victor Jory in the "62 version. I haven't seen the most recent version so I can't say how that compares to either. I wish this would come out on DVD, my VHS copy won't live much longer!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
In short...I too have seen this 1979 "Made-For-Television" classic. Funny though, by 1979, I had only seen the original '61 Bancroft/Duke classic, just bits & pieces, a time or two. So the storyline, plot, theme & "modern" production of the newer Duke/Gilbert version, really struck a chord within me...like many, in that time, I trust. Nothing can take the place of that art filmish-like masterpiece from writer William Gibson & director Arthur Penn, but Duke having such a pivotal role in BOTH films...helps make this re-make a "modern-day" classic as well. The only BIG problem? As of late 2007...a day when those are moving into movie-downloads and viewing them on portable, miniature camera/phone micro-devices...still NO DVD ever released...and still, no plan to...at this time. And for that reason...and that reason only...I leave you with only 4 Stars my film-friend. But THAT, of course, is not "your" fault...!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2009
I am so happy this is finally on dvd!!! Patty Duke takes on the role of Annie Sullivan in this 1979 TV movie with Melissa Gilbert playing Helen Keller. (Patty Duke also played Helen Keller in the 1962 movie) They both did such an incredible job, this one is definitely my favorite of all the Miracle Worker movies.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2009
The story is very compelling and being a true story, is even more amazing. My daughters (9 and 7)read the book first so it was interesting to see the images of the story they already knew. This DVD is worth having. We also recommend Melissa Gilbert's excellent performance in "The Diary of Anne Frank".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2014
It has been so educational sharing the movies and story of Helen Keller with my 8 yr old grand daughter over this past summer.

My grand daughter had actually learned her story in the second grade. By watching all three movies, she could appreciate the different actors and compare the story from one to the other. It was good to see the story was the same with just a few changes because of the actors. But the story was the same, and Helen Keller was a fighter.

Because Helen Keller's life was near impossible to live and progress, just seeing the human determination in her, and because she was so fortunate to have Ann Sullivan as her teacher...she thrived and grew and developed into a very accomplished and educated woman. For all those years passed in the late 1800's and early 1900's...it makes a person think how much determination she had.

Patty Duke now playing the part of Ann Sullivan was entertaining and it is obvious she too was inspired by the story.

The story of Helen Keller needs to continue to be read or watched by all. It continues to inspire and help us realize just how great life is and how much we take for granite. Adults need to refresh their memories of the story and act accordingly.

I am hoping my grand daughter will stay inspired by this story and some day write her own report on Helen Keller in a future grade in school.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2014
My daughter read about Helen Keller in 3rd grade, so we decided to watch the movie. We prefer to try to watch originals first, and this dates back to my childhood. Film quality is from the 70's, but it is well worth it and the performances are very convincing. My daughter was excited to recognize Melissa Gilbert from Little House. It is harder and harder to find 100% family appropriate movies these days and this film has G language and content. I rated 4 out of 5 stars because the film quality is a little dated, but you only notice for the first few minutes of the film. my kids ages 5 & 9 enjoyed the movie and followed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2014
My daughter read a beginner book about Helen Keller and was amazed at her life story. This video was one I watched growing up and it helped my daughter understand what she read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I purchased this and the newer Disney version. Both were very good, but I have to say that This one with Patty Duke and Melissa Gilbert is just a notch above! Great for all ages.
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