Silent Victory: The Kitty O'Neil Story (1979)

This first-rate biopic covers the life of stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil, from the time she became deaf at four months of age through to her attempt to break the land-speed record twenty eight years later. In the intervening years Kitty tried out for the 1964 Olympics, performed stunts in such films as The Blues Brothers (1980), and held over 20 world records, viewing her “handicap as not a defeat, but a challenge to conquer”.

 

Stockard Channing has rarely been shown to better advantage. Her depiction of a deaf person’s speech pattern and lip-reading is impressive, and while the humour she imbues the role with is expected, the radiance that permeates her performance comes as a bit of a revelation. She is ably supported by Colleen Dewhurst as Kitty’s mother, whose stubborn determination for her daughter to live the life of a hearing child puts a strain on their family’s relationships. James Farentino, Edward Albert and Brian Dennehy (in a small role as Kitty’s father), all contribute to the film’s success.

 

That the film was produced by the husbands of both star and subject is reflected by the affection evident in the film.

cast, Stockard Channing, Kitty O'Neil, James Farentino, Duffy Hambleton
Stockard Channing
Stockard Channing

as Kitty O'Neil

James Farentino
James Farentino

as Duffy Hambleton

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The unnamed competitor for the land speed record mentioned at the film's conclusion is director (and former stuntman) Hal Needham.

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No scene recreations per se in this biopic, but it does feature one scene where Stockard Channing (portraying stunt woman Kitty O’Neil) is replaced by Kitty O’Neil herself when the time comes to perform the stunt. 

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