This is like a film from another planet, such is its staggering impact. William Gibson’s play was brought to the screen with the same team that had made it such a powerful Broadway hit: director Arthur Penn, whose second feature this was, Gibson himself did the adaptation, Anne Bancroft played Annie Sullivan (those shades are seriously spooky); and the great actress Patty Duke who has died today was Helen Keller, the blind, deaf and mute child. Duke was of German and Irish ancestry, with her paternal family hailing
from County Longford. She was christened Anna Marie but her unscrupulous managers renamed her Patty after the child actress Patty (Bad Seed) McCormack whom they hoped she would emulate. She went one better: she got an Academy Award for her performance here (the youngest recipient at the time, she was just 16) and then had a TV show developed around her distinct personalities by writer/producer (and novelist) Sidney Sheldon – it was much later in life that bipolar disorder was diagnosed. She became a household name and even had hits as a pop singer. Her success was almost torpedoed by her participation in the turkey Valley of the Dolls (1967) but she recovered sufficiently to win awards for Me, Natalie (1969). She had a complex private life and much of her later career was in television. This however is how she should be remembered: it is simply a masterpiece.