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Famous Like Me > Actress > D > Patty Duke

Profile of Patty Duke on Famous Like Me

Name: Patty Duke  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 14th December 1946
Place of Birth: Elmhurst, New York, USA
Profession: Actress
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

Patty Duke (born December 14, 1946) is an actress of the stage and screen. Born Anna Marie Duke in Elmhurst, Queens, New York, USA to an Irish father and an Irish-German mother, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1962 for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. She also won a Golden Globe for Me, Natalie in 1969, which also featured the first on screen role of actor Al Pacino. From 1972 to 1985, she was married to John Astin, the father of her actor children, Sean Astin and Mackenzie Astin (the former being conceived before her marriage to Astin, and who was subsequently adopted by Astin). In 1986 she married Michael Pearce.

Many attribute some of Patty Duke's extraordinary abilities to her being affected by bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression. Duke's personal life from childhood resembled something out of Dickens. Her father was an alcoholic, and her mother suffered from bipolar disorder and was prone to violence. When Duke was 6, her mother threw her father out. When she was 8, her life was essentially turned over to her managers John and Ethel Ross who recognized her talent and promoted her as a child actress.

The Rosses methods were somewhat unscrupulous: they consistently billed her as two years younger than she was, and padded her resume with some false credits. Ethel Ross gave the sweeping name-change order "Anna Marie is dead, you are Patty now" which, though perhaps innocently intended, resounded painfully with Anna for decades to come. (Her professional name was chosen because the Rosses wanted her to achieve the success of Patty McCormack).

One of Duke's first acting jobs was on the soap opera The Brighter Day, in the late 1950s. However, Duke's first major role was playing Helen Keller (with Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan) in the Broadway play The Miracle Worker which ran for nearly two years. Midway through the run, she was honored by having her name placed above the title on the marquee. The play was made into the 1962 film version, for which Duke received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she was the youngest person to receive an Academy Award at age 16, ignoring Shirley Temple's special Award. In 1963 Duke landed her own series The Patty Duke Show in which she played both the main characters Patty Lane and her "identical cousin" Cathy Lane. The show lasted for three seasons, and earned her one Emmy Award nomination.

At the age of twelve, Patty Duke appeared on The $64,000 Question game show and won $32,000. Three years later, it was revealed that the game show was rigged and Patty was called to testify before a congessional panel. Patty was coached by the Rosses to claim that she had not cheated. At first she went along with the Rosses story and lied to panel. Later she broke down into tears and admitted that she had been given the answers.

Despite the success of her career, Duke was deeply unhappy during her teenage years. She reports being treated as a virtual prisoner by her managers the Rosses and had little control over her own life and her own earnings. The Rosses kept control over Duke and her mother by allowing them only a pittance. The Rosses also began providing Duke with alcohol and prescription drugs starting when she was as young as 13, which led to substance abuse problems later. At the same time, efforts were taken to portray her as a normal teenager; publicity shots of Duke in her room showed a telephone which was not even connected. The phone was later connected when she befriended Frank Sinatra, Jr. Duke accused both John and Ethel Ross of sexual abuse.

Upon turning 18, Duke became free of the Rosses, only to find that they had squandered most of her earnings (although she has stated that the money was nothing compared to what they had done to her life). Furthermore, she was not socially or emotionally prepared to live on her own. At the age of 18 she married director Harry Falk who was nearly twice her age at the time. Duke's heavy drinking and drug abuse, coupled with suicide attempts and anorexia drove the man into an affair that ended the marriage after four years. It was during the marriage to Falk that she made Valley of the Dolls, a critical disaster that raised questions as to her ability as an adult actress. However, she did start a successful singing career, producing Top 40 hits such as Don't Just Stand There in 1965, and Dona Dona in 1968, both of which she performed on The Ed Sullivan Show.

However, Duke made a strong career comeback in the 1970 TV movie My Sweet Charlie, for which she won her first Emmy. Around this time she became romantically involved with actor John Astin, and also entered into a short-lived but highly publicized affair with Desi Arnaz, Jr.. The relationship did not last, partially because Arnaz's mother, TV legend Lucille Ball, did not approve and reportedly ordered her son to stop seeing Duke. In what was likely to have been a depressive episode Duke quickly married rock promoter Michael Tell, who she had literally just met. The marriage was annulled two weeks later.

After the marriage Duke was pregnant with her first child. Much of the public assumed that the father was Arnaz, due to the media hype of the affair, and therefore Duke was carrying the illegitimate grandchild of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Duke believed the father to be the somewhat older actor John Astin, however.

On February 21, 1971 she gave birth to her first son Sean Astin (who has since become a major actor in his own right). Sean was Tell's biological son. Even though the affair with Desi Jr. had long since ended, Desi Arnaz, Sr. made a kindly visit to Duke when she was in the hospital. This was a daring thing for him to do, as there reporters outside the hospital that were eager for news that the newborn was his grandson. In 1972 John Astin married Duke and fathered her second son Mackenzie Astin born in 1973.

Duke and Astin worked together extensively during their marriage. For a time, Patty Duke even added Astin to her professional name. The marriage and her children greatly improved her self confidence and her career. She received her second Emmy for the TV mini-series Captains and the Kings and her third for a TV version of The Miracle Worker in which she played Annie Sullivan to Melissa Gilbert's Helen Keller. Duke still suffered from depression, however, and the work put a strain on her marriage. She and Astin divorced in 1985, then in 1986 she married drill seargent Michael Pearce, who is her present-day husband. They have one son together.

In 1982 an unusual reaction to a cortisone shot she received on a set led to her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Its treatment, which included lithium as a medication, put her on the true road to recovery. Ms. Duke has since become an activist for numerous causes, including an important spokesperson for mental health. In 1985 she was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, the second woman to hold the position (Duke held the job until 1988). She has written her autobiography Call Me Anna (ISBN 0553272055) and Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness (ISBN 0553560727)

On November 2, 2004, it was announced that Duke would undergo single bypass surgery in her adoptive home state of Idaho, which was very successful. In 2002 she returned to New York to appear as "Aunt Eller" in a revival of Oklahoma. Also in 2005, she returned again to New York to attend a memorial service for actress and old co-star from The Miracle Worker, Anne Bancroft, who had died of cancer earlier in the year.


  • Country Music Holiday (1958)
  • The Goddess (1958)
  • 4D Man (1959)
  • The Miracle Worker (1962)
  • Billie (1965)
  • The Daydreamer (1966) (voice)
  • Think Twentieth (1967) (short subject)
  • Valley of the Dolls (1967)
  • Me, Natalie (1969)
  • You'll Like My Mother (1972)
  • The Swarm (1978)
  • By Design (1982)
  • Willy/Milly (1986)
  • The Hitch-Hikers (1989)
  • Prelude to a Kiss (1992)
  • Kimberly (1999)
  • Wrong Turn (2003) (short subject)
  • Bigger Than the Sky (2005)

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Patty Duke