Patty Duke, born on December 14, 1946 in Elmhurst, Queens, died on Tuesday morning March 29, 2016 at age 69, from sepsis from a ruptured intestine.
When she started as a child actress in game shows, soap operas and commercials, her stage manager Ethel Ross told her: “Anna Marie is dead; you’re Patty now.”
Patty Duke broke out on Broadway in 1959 in “The Miracle Worker,” and went on to earn an Oscar at age 16 (the youngest ever until Tatum O’Neal) for playing the blind deaf mute Helen Keller opposite Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan. Years later she nabbed an Emmy nomination for playing Sullivan opposite Melissa Gilbert in a 1979 TV feature.
The same year she won the Oscar, Duke also starred in her own sitcom “The Patty Duke Show” as two-of-a-kind identical cousins, fun American teen Patricia “Patty” Lane and prim and proper Scottish Catherine “Cathy” Lane. Sidney Sheldon developed the show for her, not knowing she would later be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The series lasted three seasons and earned Duke’s first Emmy nomination, but reruns played for decades in syndication. TV Guide named Duke as one of the 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time (#40).
Audiences rejected wholesome Duke as pill-popping bouffant-haired Neely O’Hara in 1967’s “Valley of the Dolls.” She went on to earn a Golden Globe for “Me, Natalie,” as an ugly ducking teenager in Brooklyn. After that she scored mainly on television.
After her 1982 diagnosis of manic depression, Duke became a powerful advocate and spokeswoman for mental health issues. Duke also succeeded in her role as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988, the second woman to hold the post and wrote a well-reviewed 1990 autobiography, “Call Me Anna.” She played her mature self in the TV adaptation.