Anne Bancroft received her first Best Actress nomination and only Oscar for playing Anne Sullivan, the famous teacher of Helen Keller. It's strange that people thought that Bette Davis would win the Oscar for playing Baby Jane. I'm not comparing them, I just think that I would have expected Bancroft to win. First of all, her movie received multiple nominations in very important categories plus Anne Bancroft was a young and upcoming actress who's earned fame on Broadway. So I'm not that surprised by this win. It's pretty much like Marion Cotillard's win. It wasn't expected but with hindsight, it's an obvious choice.
The Miracle Worker is an astonishing, beautiful movie about Helen Keller. There are many versions of this story but I firmly believe that nothing can be better than this one. It's quite stunning that it was not nominated for Best Picture. However, all the nominations were deserved for this movie. Arthur Penn's direction is fantastic and had David Lean not been nominated, he would be my pick for the win. Patty Duke is also fantastic and now I feel that placing her in supporting wasn't that much of a category fraud.
It really wasn't because the main character of this movie is really Anne Sullivan (she's the miracle worker). I think no other actress than Anne Bancroft could have played this character so brilliantly. Anne Bancroft was a terrific, wonderful actress who's just fantastic in each and every role of hers. That voice, that presence is so astonishing and she's like a real magnet. You just have to look at her so that you don't miss any of her brilliant moments. Although her iconic role is Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, this one is not any weaker. The characters and Anne's approach to them cannot be any more different.
Anne Sullivan is a very tough and dedicated teacher who's haunted by her horrifying past. There's a kind of mystery in her. Those sunglasses make her somehow distant and Anne played her as if she was an otherwordly person. Anne is not the kind, gentle person that you would expect in such a story. She is very tough and incredibly strict and yet she has a kind of strange connection to Helen.
Unlike Patty Duke's mostly technical performance (which is also brilliant), Anne mostly relies on the emotions and shows the demons of Annie so brilliantly. The scene where she's talking about her past with her brother and the awful things they went through is incredibly effective and chilling. She goes through so many emotions and it's just wonderful to see them change in Anne's performance. She shows all the contradictions of this character so wonderfully.
I also loved how Bancroft showed the vulnerability inside Annie's determination. I love those moments when we get to see Annie's fears and weaknesses. There are so many wonderful layers in this character and Anne Bancroft is able to reveal all of them. Although some may argue that it was easy for her to play Annie as she had previously played her on Broadway (winning a Tony for it), I think film is a totally different thing and it's incredibly difficult to adapt a stage performance to the screen. Anne is, however, never theatrical and she avoided all the possible traps and dangers of this role. There isn't a stagy feeling in it (which you can sometimes spot in Katharine Hepburn's performance as Mary Tyrone) and it all seemed so natural for me.
I was also impressed by how well she worked with Patty Duke. Their performances are totally different and yet they result in sheer perfection. It was just wonderful any time that they were together on the screen. Neither of them tried to overshadow the other one (the never did) and they really were very supportive of each other. I felt that there was a special connection between them very much like Annie's and Helen's. Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke gave us one of the best on-screen duos ever.
However, what amazed me the most was the clarity and beauty of this performance. Despite her flaws, Annie seemed like a real saint to me. This beauty drew and touched me so much that everything else failed to eist for me apart from Anne. It was just wonderful. After a while, her work becomes like a very clean creek which flows gently on a summer afternoon. There was something very relaxing about Anne and it was almost a spiritual experience for me. And that rarely happens in a film. My feelings about her are just indescribable. I guess not many people said this before but this is almost an angelic performance for me.
So after all, I was totally amazed by Anne Bancroft's star-making turn as Annie Sullivan, the determined and tough teacher. Anne Bancroft created a multi-layered fascinating character that is a real joy to watch. Her beauty shines through the screen and it's effect is just astonishing. I was taken by this work and I can only praise her for this. It's kind of cheesy to say it's a miracle but for me, it is.
What do you think?