Hollywood legend and Academy Award winner Patty Duke will visit Omaha on May 23rd for a special screening and discussion of her Oscar winning classic film The Miracle Worker. The event is part of Omaha film historian Bruce Crawford’s 34th annual tribute to classic films. It will benefit the Omaha Parks Foundation. The event was designed to allow people to experience some of films greatest moments. The Miracle Worker was an important film for Bruce. “It has been a film I have wanted to do for some time, we just had to coordinate Patty’s schedule to make it all happen.”
The Miracle Worker was released in 1962 and was the biographical film of Helen Keller. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning two, one for Best Actress for Anne Bancroft and Best Supporting Actress for Patty Duke. The screenplay was based on the 1959 play of the same name and television anthology series. Patty was just 16 when she won the Oscar and had starred in the Broadway production of the play from 1959 to 1961.
“It is a true story of one of the most admired and amazing people in American History. Helen Keller overcame such obstacles that it is really hard to imagine how she did. And of course Annie Sullivan, the teacher who helped her to overcome it all, who was deemed The Miracle Worker by the legendary Mark Twain,” says Bruce of why the film is such an important one to show.
Patty agrees. “Those women stand the test of time,” she says. She points out the incredible strides Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller made, “Look at what they had going against them and then look at what little they had going for them.” After 52 years The Miracle Worker still stands as a classic family film, a fact that Patty is very proud of. She often travels all over the country, showing the film to children. “Their usually shocked to see it’s in black and white,” but she feels there is an emotional impact that would have been lost in color. She says that anyone watching the film for the first time should come without expectations and realize that The Miracle Worker is “above all else” about having hope.
Patty feels that the film highlights some very important lessons for viewers. “It shows children that you can always find a way to communicate,” she says. “As American’s we now lack communication.” She’s also told regularly that the film is a huge inspiration for teachers who tell her that it made them want to go into the learning field. “52 years later the strength and power of these women is lasting.”
Patty is also excited to bring some of her favorite memories of making the movie to the audience discussion before the screening. Legendary actress and co-star Anne Bancroft had a profound and lasting effect on Patty. “Just being in the same space as Anne Bancroft,” she says. There is a certain scene in the film too that has stayed with Patty over the years. “There is a scene in the film when Helen is holding an egg while a chicken hatches and Annie tells Helen that she has to come out too that always makes me emotional.”
That moment was the last scene shot while filming the movie and the young Patty knew that it was one of the last times she and Bancroft would work together. She still holds vivid memories of auditioning for the original production. “I think they just wanted someone who would fight with Anne Bancroft,” she says with a laugh. “I was a street kid. If you hit me, I would hit back.”
Patty wants people to come out and experience the film even if they’ve already seen it. “It’s such a good film. When they revisit it they rediscover how magical it is.” All these years later and The Miracle Worker stands out to Patty as her favorite project. “I’m not one of those people who worry about being remembered for one thing. If I was going to be remembered for one thing wouldn’t it be nice if it were this?”
The film screening will take place on Friday May 23rd at Joslyn Art Museum. Tickets are $22 at all Omaha Hy Vee food stores. The evening will also benefit the Omaha Parks Foundation and in addition to the film screening, discussion and meet and greet, artist Nicolosi will have a commemorative U.S. Postal Envelope honoring the film unveiled at the event. Sculptor Susan Woodford and artist Anne Nye will display their metal and stained glass sculpture tribute to Helen Keller and Patty Duke and her role in The Miracle Worker. For more information call 402-926-8299 or visit www.omahafilmevent.com