Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, who was a hit on both big and small screens, is dead.
As the Queens-born daughter of a cashier and alcoholic cab driver, Duke overcame a troubled childhood to become one of the Hollywood’s most respected actresses. Born Anna Marie Duke in Dec. 14, 1946, Duke was one of three children. Her career was launched at 8 when her mother, unable to cope with the kids, turned her over to talent scouts John and Ethel Ross, who saw something special in the perky young girl.
Duke shot to fame in the 60’s as the star of The Patty Duke Show, which ran for three seasons, where she played her rambunctious self, as well as her more demure “identical cousin.”
Duke made her Broadway debut at age 12 playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and three years later, at age 16, she won the best supporting actress Academy Award reprising her role as the young Helen in the celebrated 1962 screen adaptation of the play. In 1979, Duke won an Emmy playing Keller’s teacher — the role originally played on Broadway by Anne Bancroft — in a TV version of the same play.
In ’67 Duke landed her most iconic role (for gay audiences especially) as the hot mess, Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls. (See what I mean, below…)
Duke was also president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988. (Btw, the current headquarters for World of Wonder in Hollywood was once the former home of the Screen Actor’s Guild, so Duke likely wandered those hallways…)
Duke was married four times; she is survived by her last husband, Michael Pearce, and their son, Kevin Pearce.
She devoted her later years to championing mental health programs and raising her three sons, two of whom — Sean Astin (of Lord of the Rings fame) and Mackenzie Astin — followed in their mother’s footsteps and became actors too.
Patty Duke was 69.
(via NBC News)