Singer and actress Patty Duke passed away at a hospital in Idaho at the age of 69 on March 29, 2016. The Academy Award-winning actress was best known for her starring role in the 1960’s sitcom named after her, “The Patty Duke Show”. In the television series, Duke portrayed identical cousins Cathy and Patty Lane. Wanting to ensure actors are treated fairly, Duke served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988.
She made her debut on stage at age 12 in the Broadway show, The Miracle Worker, and would later go on to the 1963 film version portraying Helen Keller. Duke won the Academy Award for best supporting actress when she was 16 years old. Besides her outstanding role in that film, Duke continued her big screen hits with a role in the “Valley of the Dolls” movie. In the Dolls film, Duke played Neely O’Hara, the drug addicted Hollywood actress.
In 1987, Duke came forward with her diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She often spoke up about her manic and depressive stages of the illness. She attempted suicide several times and was committed to mental hospitals, prior to knowing her diagnosis. Duke wrote two books, “Call Me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness”, that chronicled her battle with bipolar disorder. She would become an advocate in her adult years, including causes of mental health, AIDS awareness and nuclear disarmament.
Anna Marie Duke was born in New York City on Dec. 14, 1946, and raised in Queens, New York. She began acting around the age of 8 years old. Her managers told her “Anna Marie is dead; you’re Patty now,” as she recalled in her memoir, “Call Me Anna”. Duke was removed from her home by her managers and took her to live with them, Duke remembered in her autobiography of the sexual abuse and the introduction to alcohol during her time with her managers.
Duke married Harry Falk, an assistant director on “The Patty Duke Show,” when she was still a teenager to get away from her managers; the marriage ended in divorce. Her second marriage to Michael Tell was annulled after 13 days. In 1972, she married the actor John Astin, who adopted her son Sean and the couple had son Mackenzie. The Astins divorced in 1985.
Duke is survived by her fourth husband, Michael Pearce, an Army drill sergeant whom she married in 1986; her brother, Raymond; three sons, Sean Astin, Mackenzie Astin and Kevin Pearce; stepdaughter, Charlene Gibson from her marriage to Pearce; and six grandchildren.