Patty Duke, who passed away at the age of 69 in 2016, is known for being the youngest Oscar-winning actress for her stunning acting as Helen Keller in the movie The Miracle Worker.

Born on December 14, 1946, in Manhattan, she was well known for her long successful history in Hollywood. She gained huge popularity for playing the role of world-famous advocate Helen Keller. She was only 15 at that time when she acted in The Miracle Worker of 1962, for which she was awarded an Academy Award and became the teen Oscar award-winning actress of her time.

Patty Duke’s Successful Career but Unhappy Personal Life

After her success as Helen Keller, she kept her steady flow of success in the industry and became a well-known Hollywood icon. Though she was a successful actress she had a very difficult childhood. She was the youngest child among the three siblings and they were raised in a household of an alcoholic father and a mother with a depressive disorder.

As she recalled her past she said during an interview,

“My parents were very poor when I was a child, and my father left when I was 7. I never saw him again.”

When she was 8 she was scouted for the entertainment industry by John and Ethel Ross, who were the talent managers. But her life with them was exploitive and manipulative, though they helped her in a stable acting career, they started taking over her life.

As Patty Duke said, “I saw no one but the Rosses except on the set. They obsessively controlled my life so that I never had an opinion about anything, including my own personal bathing habits, what I wore, or even closing the door of my room.”

They even made her change her birth name from Anna Marie to Patty Duke.

Finally, Duke was able to leave the Rosses when she got married in 1965 when she was just 19 years old. Her then first husband Harry Flak was 13 years older than her, but the marriage was a failure and she suffered from an overdose, anorectic, and mood swings. The couple got divorced in 1969.

When she was 23 she was involved with three-man at the same time namely Desi Arnaz, John Astin, and Michael Tell. In the same year, she learned about her pregnancy and married Michael Tell in 1970 but their marriage only lasted for 13 days.

Then in 1971, her first child Sean Astin was born. But the biggest confusion for everyone was, who was the biological father of Sean. Patty Duke in her book Call Me Anna, said John Astin is the actual father of Sean, which later came out to be wrong when Sean went through biological testing in 1994. And the result came out as Michael Tell being his biological father.

Later in the year 1972, she married John Astin and they together have a son Mackenzie Astin. Patty Duke had a much better married life with Astin but they got divorced in 1985.

Her last marriage was to sergeant Michael Pearce in 1986 and the couple adopted a son Kevin. She remained married to Pearce until her death in 2016, which makes up 30 years of them being married as a couple.

Duke’s Majors Success in Her Career

Duke’s first major role came with her fabulous acting as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker movie in 1962, for which she received the Academy Award. Then another of her successes in her career was when she got her own show The Patty Duke Show, which started airing from 1963 to 1966.

The show was a sitcom series with Duke playing the role of two identical twin cousins Patty Lane and Cathay Lane. The two twins might be identical by look but they are polar opposite in personality. Duke was nominated for the Golden Globe and Emmy Awards for her role in The Patty Duke Show.

After her success with her show, she then was cast in another popular drama movie Valley Of The Dolls in 1967. The movie was a huge hit but it also received criticism for its campiness, the movie was based on the novel Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. The movie depicts the struggling life in the entertainment industry of three women who became involved in alcohol and drug abuse.

Duke plays the role of Neely O’Hara, a young newcomer singer who is struggling to rise to the top spot in the industry. She later became addicted to alcoholism, and substance abuse which ruined both her career and her personal life. The movie is considered a legacy by the gay man and the LGBTQ community and it became a part of their cult classic.

Apart from her being an actress, she has also contributed to singing and two of her songs were listed in the top 40 US Billboard charts. She has released about four albums in her 1960s singing career besides her career boost in acting.

So, did Patty Duke sing in the Valley Of The Dolls? If you are wondering this question, then yes she sang one of the Valley Of The Dolls songs Come live with me in the movie in 1967.

Another of her major notable roles was in the 1969 movie Me, Natalie, which gained her a Golden Globe Award. Then followed the movie My Sweet Charlie in 1970 which got her an Emmy Award.

Her later successful acting was in Captains And Kings (1977), By Design(1981), and Prelude To a Kiss(1992). Duke’s last appearance on the screen was in the series Liv And Maddie as grandmother Janice in 2015.

Duke has also written three books namely Call Me Anna, an autobiography published in 1987, then the Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic Depressive Illness (1992), and the last one, In The Presence Of Greatness- My Sixty Year Journey As An Actress, which was published in 2018.

Wrap Up

It was unfortunate that we lost this great actress in 2016. She died in Coeur D’Alene Idaho at the age of 69 and her cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She until her death was an active activist for mental health illness and causes, as she herself was suffering from mental health and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982.