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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Theatre Thursday: Arthur Penn 1922-2010

Arthur Penn, the director of movies like Bonnie and Clyde, The Missouri Breaks, and Little Big Man and the Broadway productions of Two for the Seesaw, Wait Until Dark, and the musical version of Golden Boy starring Sammy Davis, Jr. passed away on Tuesday leaving a Broadway and Hollywood legacy spanning six decades.
He is most closely associated with the classic Bonnie and Clyde, but one of his most moving films (and the one that I think probably really put him "on the map") is the adaptation of his Broadway stage production of The Miracle Worker retaining the original leads: Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, the determined teacher who won't give up on deaf and blind "wild child" Helen Keller played by Patty Duke.
Most people remember this film for the touching breakthrough "water scene," but the most powerful scene for me is this one in which we see a battle of wills (and fists and chairs and water pitchers) as Annie tries to get Helen to eat her breakfast with a spoon.

I can only imagine how powerful this scene was performed live on Broadway. The trust among the actresses and the director in this scene is a testament to the the talent of all involved and proof positive that Arthur Penn was one of the greats.

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