Oscar Roles: Bancroft, Anne–Mircale Worker

Repeating her huge stage success on Broadway, as the harsh disciplinarian Anne Sullivan, the devoted teacher of the deaf and blind girl, Helen Keller (Patty Duke), Anne Bancroft gave a strong, riveting performance of a woman determined to break through the barriers of communication at all costs.

Patty Duke became the youngest Supporting Actress Oscar winner to date for playing a difficult, largely physical role.

This astonishing tale had a long history before it became a movie. It began as a book, and then became a play by William Gibson, which premiered on Broadway in 1959.

The story begins with the arrival of Annie Sullivan (Bancroft) in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to teach Helen Keller how to communicate via sign language. Upon arrival, she meets a lost, angry girl, locked in her isolated silent world.

At first, the mission seems impossible, as Helen is both deaf and blind. The women, nonetheless, have a special Bond, as Annie was blind at birth and still needs to wear dark thick glasses in order to see more clearly.

We learn that Annie’s life has been tough lonely, and brutal, having spent years in various institutions, and losing her crippled brother at a young age.

Uncompromising, the film is harrowing in its details, which includes a battle of wills between Annie and Helen, one that’s both emotional and physical.

At the time, critics and audiences were impressed with a long, painfully honest climactic sequence (8 minutes), which depicted the physical fight between teacher and pupil

Both Bancroft and Duke played their respective roles on stage; Duke was only 16, when she won the Supporting Actress Oscar, thus becoming the youngest winner–until 1973, when Tatum O’Neal, 10, won in that category for “Paper Moon.”

Oscar Nominations: 5

Director: Arthur Penn
Screenplay (adapted): William Gibson
Actress: Anne Bancroft
Supporting Actress: Patty Duke
Costume (b/w): Ruth Morley

Oscar Awards: 2

Supporting Actress

Oscar Context

In 1962, David LeAnn’s “Lawrence of Arabia” swept most of the Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director

Director Alert

Despite several Oscar nominations, including one for the seminal “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, Arthur Penn had never won a legit Director Oscar.