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Helen Keller—Movie Star
April/may 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 3
—Prospectus and Plot Synopsis— for the Greatest Human Drama of all Times
HELEN KELLER —Deaf-Dumb-Blind— The Most Wonderful Girl in the World. in ∗DELIVERANCE or THE WORLD FOR HUMANITY An Inspiring Revelation which brings Hope and Courage To the People of all Nations and Races This name is tentative—the final title will be selected by Producers and Dramatist from a long list now being prepared.
Dramatized by FRANCIS TREVELYAN MILLER (Litt.D.,LL.D.) (The American Historian)
Five Powerful Acts—Eight Reels I—THE WORLD I LIVE IN II—THE MIRACLE OF LIFE III—KINGDOM OF THE BLIND IV—OUT OF THE DARK V—VICTORY With a Cast of WORLD CELEBRITIES who have never before appeared on the screen
The hyperbole of Dr. Miller’s introduction made earlier encomiums to Helen’s attainments seem by comparison like the soul of trenchancy, but that was what Hollywood wanted:
“The purpose of this introduction is to establish the motif of the powerful drama, DELIVERANCE , in which we are to see a little child, blind, deaf, and dumb, as primitive and wild as the elements—first conquered by love; then conquering her own emotions; then conquering her own world of light and knowledge, until she accomplishes her own DELIVERANCE from all bondage, and sets out on an heroic crusade for the DELIVERANCE of humanity. …
“We see her with her distinguished friends, the most eminent men and women of the times. … This gives us an opportunity to present in garden-party scenes, and amid beautiful flowers and settings, the celebrities with whom she is constantly associated—her friend, Caruso, singing to her, as in ecstasy she ‘listens with her finger tips’; to Paderewski at the piano; to Ysaÿe with the violin. …
“We see her with the great inventors; Dr. Bell, the inventor of the telephone; Edison, the genius of light and sound; Marconi, the inventor of the wireless—the men who have conquered worlds from which she is forever barred. We see her with the Wrights as she steps into an aeroplane. …
“We see Helen as she stands before Kings as she pleads for humanity. We see her as she moves among the poor, the outcast, the unfortunate—as they extend their helpless hands to the modern Jeanne d’Arc who comes from the realm of darkness over which she has risen supreme, to help struggling Humanity.”
Miss Marbury’s reaction was “splendid material,” “most promising.” All that remained to be settled, Dr. Miller informed Helen, were “some slight alterations that Miss Marbury states will be absolutely necessary (according to her wide experience) in placing the whole proposition on a sound business basis and securing the largest degree of profits from the enterprise.” Miss Marbury immediately had spotted the weakness of the synopsis. It was a series of tableaux with captions, not a story. There was no conflict. The concept of two “deliverances,” Helen’s release from blindness and deafness and her later release from social and political blindness, were worthy themes, but exhibitors already had a horror of what the trade called “the high-brow picture.” Love, romance, adventure—all would have to be introduced, if necessary invented, if the picture were to have mass appeal.
Helen and Teacher refused to countenance such falsification. They parted company with Miss Marbury and sought other ways of getting the picture produced. Despite Dr. Miller’s optimism, the whole project began to seem unreal again. A long letter to her mother on May 7 made no mention of the film. It was full of news—of loyal Ned Holmes, a general factotum, “smiling and silent,” who worked for them, but she did not mention that he was representing them in negotiations with Miller and others. She spoke of attending a reception of the American-BritishFrench-Belgian Fund for the benefit of blinded soldiers. The not wholly successful appeal that two blinded officers had made to the audience to give until giving meant sacrifice, reminded Helen “how Teacher and I had worked ourselves almost crazy trying to help the New York Association for the Blind years ago—and then those millionaires wouldn’t give anything. …” She was going to lunch with some of her former schoolmates, and she was fixing up a speech for the summer “in case we should do Chautauqua work.” She was also preparing a speech on Walt Whitman for a dinner in his honor that was being given by Whitman’s friend, biographer and Marxian socialist, Horace Träubel. “Then there is the Italian grammar and Dante, which I find pretty hard at times.” It was not the letter of someone who was planning to spend the next few months in Hollywood.