Thursday, March 31, 2016

Patty Duke dies at 69; Oscar winner was the youngest at the time to receive the award

Libby HillContact Reporter

Patty Duke, like so many child actors before and after, lived her life in the public eye. That spotlight brought to focus her most private struggles as she became a powerful advocate for mental illness awareness in addition to being a gifted actress.

Duke died early Tuesday morning in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, of “sepsis from a ruptured intestine,” according to a statement from her manager. She was 69 years old.

In 1963, when she was just 16, she became the youngest person at the time to win an Oscar for supporting actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” a role she originated on Broadway.

“I don’t think it will change things for me,” the starlet told The Times after she won. “I’m still just one of the kids.”

The truth was more complicated.

Duke’s life was marked with both success and struggle. Her earliest years were marred by an alcoholic father and a violently depressive mother. From the time she was 8, Duke was raised by talent managers John and Ethel Ross. In her memoir “Call Me Anna,” Duke revealed that the Rosses left her little control over her career or life and began supplying her with alcohol and prescription medication when she was 13.

Undeterred by the challenges of her upbringing, Duke continued to find success through her craft. After her Oscar win for “The Miracle Worker,” Duke told The Times, “It seems like a dream. I’m still not sure if it happened. When they announced it, I just sat there. I couldn’t move.”

The actress had already won acclaim for the role onstage. She noted that had she grown taller, she might never have had the opportunity to play the role of the young Keller, who could not see, speak or hear after a childhood illness. Duke said a clause in her contract when she took the role in 1959 allowed for the producers to dismiss her if she grew 2 inches.

Despite her early success in “The Miracle Worker,” Duke’s film career faltered, leading her instead to conquer the small screen with her own show. Duke debuted on “The Patty Duke Show” in 1963, in which she played both main characters Patricia “Patty” Lane, all-American teenager, and Catherine “Cathy” Lane, her identical cousin from Scotland.

“Patty was very embarrassing to me,” the actress told The Times in 2013. “They would write those outrageous things for her to do. I would dive in and do it, but I couldn’t wait to get to Cathy. She was sensible, and I’d like to think she was classy.”

The show had a slightly surreal concept and a catchy theme song — “Where Cathy adores a minuet / the Ballet Russes and crêpes suzette / our Patty loves to rock and roll / a hot dog makes her lose control — what a wild duet!” It also boasted such guest stars as Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Frankie Avalon, Sal Mineo and the British pop duo Chad and Jeremy.

Duke eventually found peace with her struggle playing TV’s famous cousins, she told The Times in 2002.

“When you walk down the street and a total stranger sings a 40-year-old theme to you, you go, ‘Someone was paying attention.’ I love it! Strangers nod and smile or call out, ‘I love you,’ ” Duke said. “What a nice way to go through life.”

After her stint as Patty and Cathy Lane on television, Duke tried to transition back to film with a controversial performance as Neely O’Hara in “Valley of the Dolls,” in which the actress portrayed an alcoholic, drug-addled star. Seeing the actress in the role caused severe dissonance for audiences and critics alike, even as the film found a cult audience with time.

Later, Duke would discover her passion for mental illness awareness advocacy, a quest that rose out of her own diagnosis with bipolar disorder in 1982. Duke credited medication and therapy for aiding her recovery; she was the first celebrity, via her 1987 autobiography, to make her struggle with bipolar disorder public.

The actress had said she was grateful for her close relationships with son and “The Lord of the Rings” star Sean Astin, 45, and his actor brother, Mackenzie Astin, 42, despite the rough childhood to which she subjected them before her illness was diagnosed. Her family called her Anna Banana. After Sean had his own children, she became Nana Anna Banana.

“I had no patience,” she admitted to The Times. “The thing that these kids had going against them was that you never knew when what was all hunky-dory was going to fly out the window and you were going to be screamed at and berated and either ostracized or made to do some humiliating punishment.”

The TV star was also stepmother to the children of her fourth husband, Michael Pearce: daughters Charlene, a genetic researcher, and Raelene, who drowned in a 1998 car accident at age 22. In 1988, Pearce and Duke adopted a son, Kevin, who became a firefighter.

Now her son Sean hopes his mother’s mental health advocacy continues after her death.

“Before the suffering became too great, we talked about how the core mission of her mental health work might continue beyond her life,” Sean said in the introduction to a newly launched Crowdrise campaign in his mother’s honor, the proceeds of which will be used to establish the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative, dedicated to continuing support of mental health programs.

Of his mother, Sean said, “She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need.”


katie8753 said...

I loved the Patty Duke show, but when I found out that Cathy and Patty were the same person, I just flat didn't believe it. I didn't know about "camera magic". LOL.

katie8753 said...

Patty's house was beautiful. It's too bad that Roman said it was too expensive to buy. I wonder what Patty was asking. Then they moved to that Cielo Drive dump. I never liked that place. $1200/month was a lot of rent back in 1969. What is that in today's dollars? $4800.00/month???

People said the view was good, but who cares about the view? All you could see was smog anyway. I've been to LA when the smog was so bad you couldn't even see the Hollywood sign.

That's a LOT of dough. It would have been better to buy Patty's house and make house payments of $4800.00/month, but going towards principle.

The funny thing is Roman and Sharon weren't even there for the duration of the rent on that dump. They left in March of 1969, and Sharon returned in July of 1969. I wonder if Gibby was paying rent while they were gone. Probably not. Roman hadn't paid the rent by August 9th, so I guess he was behind on his rent payments.

katie8753 said...

That Cielo Drive property was beautiful when Michele Morgan owned it. Exquisite!

But when Rudi bought it he let it go way down. What kind of guy rents out a house and lives in the guest house? And he evidently didn't repaint every time a tenant moved out.

That would have been a sign to me that something was definitely wrong. I wonder if the toilets flushed or the bathtubs drained.

Oh well, maybe $1200.00/month was a bargain back then.

katie8753 said...

Seriously folks, I wonder if Roman told Gibby to pay the rent from April thru July when he and Sharon weren't there and Gibby & Voytek were living there, and then the August rent was in contention because Sharon was back. One of the reasons Rudi sued Sharon's estate was because the August rent wasn't paid.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

I'm still waiting for Venus' thread on Charles Milles Maddox Manson.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

I don't know enough about Islam to verify or refute this guy's facts, but nonetheless, he's damn hilarious.
This guy should do stand-up comedy.

katie8753 said...

BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He looks like King Kong with a purple shirt.

We need to back this up with The Name Game.

Obama hama bo bama, banana fanna fo fama, fi fie mo mama, Bama.

Tex Tex bo bex, banana fanna fo fex, fi fie mo mex. Tex.

Charlie Charlie bo barley, banana fanna fo farley, fi fie mo marley. Charlie.

And there isn't any name that can't rhyme.

katie8753 said...

That Islamic guy sounds gay. He's probably worried about where to go the bathroom. He keeps sucking his lips. That is sooo gay.

Where did these people go to the bathroom before Bruce Jenner decided to bust out with his fake tits, size 13 high heels, an eye that was put out, and a surgically tightened mouth that makes him talk like he doesn't have a tongue anymore? Like he has tape on his mouth? Or stitches on his mouth?

katie8753 said...

Wow King Kong ended by saying God is Satan.

Like A. Bunker used to say. DUCK!!! HA HA HA.

LynyrdSkynyrdBand said...

Did somebody fart?

Oh... I'm sorry... it was just Katie piping off.

katie8753 said...

I guess Lynyrd didn't get the cosmic joke.

katie8753 said...

Oh Hi Lynyrd!! LOL

CarolMR said...

RIP, Patty Duke. Thanks for this, Venus.

CarolMR said...

"That Cielo Drive property was beautiful when Michele Morgan owned it. Exquisite!" - Katie

I totally agree! Ms. Morgan decorated it beautifully and it looked really lovely. I also think in 1969 that the property had deteriorated and was in desperate need of a makeover. It looked kind of unkempt. I loved the outside of the house, though.

Venus said...

You're welcome, Carol. Katie (as usual) did an awesome job of posting it.

I also agree the house was "exquisite" (perfect word) when Michele Morgan owned it, the furniture was perfect, it was just incredible.

We know the furniture (at least in the living room) was the same for a while, it was there when Samantha Eggar lived there too so I wonder how many tenants used it.

I think the studio helped with the rental payments since Roman was planning to use the upstairs of the garage as an office, but I have no idea if they actually did pay any of the rent or, if they did, who knows how much they did pay?

Roman and Patty's husband couldn't agree on a price for the house, that's why they didn't buy it. (think what the house cost then vs. what it'd be worth now!)