Patty Duke will always be remembered for her stunning talent onstage and onscreen. She is one of the most talented and highly awarded actors in history, and her widely renowned success began at a shockingly young age.
Patty Duke was born on December 14th, 1946 to parents Frances Margaret and John Patrick Duke. After an incredibly rough childhood, she was eventually taken under the wing by two talent managers. Unfortunately, she soon discovered that they were cruel people who exploited her work. Even so, Patty Duke’s talent shone through in spite of these harsh difficulties, and before long, she was a child star.
After appearing in a series of television show episodes and a few plays, Patty Duke finally landed her starring role. She played Helen Keller in the Broadway play The Miracle Worker. It was an incredible success, and when they decided to turn the play into a movie, they asked Patty Duke to retain the role on film. Patty Duke of course said yes, and when she was just 16 years old, she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This meant that, at the time, she was the youngest person in history to receive an Oscar.
Patty Duke went on to win many more accolades, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, and her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She had an impressive filmography in both film and television. Her most iconic role in television was as the twins, Cathy and Patty Lane in her very own television show, The Patty Duke Show. Her most memorable films include Valley of the Dolls and Me, Natalie.
In 1985, Patty Duke was so deeply involved in the film industry that she served as President of the Screen Actors Guild until 1988, where she represented the labor union of actors across the country. She didn’t just devote her life to performing, however. She also worked as both an author and a singer, giving her a prolific and multi-faceted career.
Later in life, Patty Duke also became an advocate and spokeswoman for mental health, after dealing with serious personal mental health issues.
While Patty Duke had an impressive career that spanned a total of 65 years, she had a devastating end to her life. She died on March 29th, 2016 at the age of 69. Her son, Sean Astin, announced with a heavy heart that she suffered greatly towards the end of her life. In today’s video, we’re going to take a look at some fascinating facts about Patty Duke. Make sure you stick around, because we’re also going to reveal the tragic suffering she dealt with before her death.
She Had a Troubled Childhood
Patty Duke was born Anna Marie Duke to parents Frances Margaret and John Patrick Duke. Her childhood was far from happy, however. Her father was an alcoholic, and her mother kicked him out of the house when Duke was six years old. Sadly, however, her mother was even worse. Frances Margaret Duke dealt with severe clinical depression, and was often violent towards her children. Duke suffered two more years of abuse and instability until two talent managers were given custody of her. The saw potential in young Duke, and were able to turn her into a child star.
She Suffered Greatly Towards the End of Her Life
While Anna “Patty” Duke had a long and prolific career, the end of her life was filled with suffering. Her son, Sean Astin, held a grave interview with Entertainment Tonight. He explained that, while his mother died among family on the morning of March 29th, 2016, she was in a great deal of pain. She suffered a ruptured intestine, which was painful enough. However, she also suffered from sepsis as a result of the intestinal rupture. This painful condition occurs when the body releases chemicals to fight infection. However, sometimes these chemicals cause inflammation throughout the body, and can sometimes lead to death. Duke fought as hard as she could against the condition, but ultimately died. Her family was devastated at the pain she suffered before the end of her life.
She Was Terribly Exploited by Her Agents
Unfortunately, Duke’s death was not the only painful thing she experienced throughout her life. When she was eight years old, two talent managers named John and Ethel Ross took custody of her. While young Duke should have been thrilled to be removed from her abusive mother, she found that life with the Rosses had its own challenges. She was drilled to be perfect even at a young age, and was horribly exploited by her managers. Not only did they give her alcohol and drugs as a child, but they also made numerous sexual advances towards her. They also stripped her of her birth name, Anna Marie, saying “Anna Marie is dead now. You’re Patty now,” hoping that her new name would bring her more attention. Later in life, Duke asked that others call her by her true name, Anna.
She Won a Rigged Game Show
Duke was entered onto the incredibly popular game show, The $64,000 Question, when she was just 12 years old. She performed surprisingly well, and the nation was shocked when she won $32,000. However, some began to suspect foul play, and Duke was forced to testify before the United States Senate. She was a victim of a series of game show scandals that occurred frequently throughout the 1950s. To gain more popularity, game show producers would rig the game and coach contestants through the right answers before the show. The whole ordeal was incredibly stressful and embarrassing for young Duke.
She Was a Huge Advocate for Mental Health
In 1982, after much struggle, Duke was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The diagnosis explained a lot for Duke, who had struggled with both mania and depression throughout her life. As a result, she became a huge advocate for mental health. One of her main goals was to destigmatize mental illness, because many people who suffer from mental disorders are viewed as scary or bad by the rest of society. Duke worked hard to clear up misinformation about her illness, and ultimately helped countless others who suffered from the same disorder.
While her bipolar disorder was obviously a huge disability throughout her life, it did spark some interesting inspiration. Make sure you stick around until the very end, where we’ll reveal how Duke’s bipolar disorder inspired the famous Patty Duke Show!
She Also Worked as a Singer
Duke wasn’t just an actor or a mental health advocate; she was also a talented singer! She surprised fans of her work as an actress by revealing her gorgeous singing voice. Two of her singles became Top 40 hits: “Don’t Just Stand There” and “Say Something Funny.” Her singing career was short-lived, however, starting in 1965 with the release of a single and ending in 1968. Still, she would occasionally perform as a singer on various television shows, and while she was never a singing superstar, fans adored her voice.
Two of Her Children Became Famous Actors
Duke gave birth to three children throughout her life, two of which would go on to become actors. The first was Mackenzie Astin, who first appeared in film at the age of nine. However, he was overshadowed by his A-list celebrity half-brother, Sean Astin. Sean Astin is well known for his roles in films like Rudy and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has also worked as both a director and a producer. Duke retained a close relationship with all of her children, however, and she was surrounded by all three at the time of her death in 2016.
She Had a Tumultuous Love Life
Duke was married to a total of four men throughout her life: Harry Falk, Michael Tell, John Astin, and Michael Pearce. Her love life was difficult and was sometimes filled with confusion. For example, she believed John Astin to be the father of her son, Sean Astin, but a DNA test actually proved that he was the offspring of her previous husband, Michael Tell. In 1986, she married Michael Pearce, and the marriage lasted much longer than her previous marriages. They remained lovingly married until her death.
The Premise of The Patty Duke Show Was Inspired by Her Bipolar Disorder
Duke suffered greatly from a combination of manic and depressive episodes throughout her life. Prior to her diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 1982, however, her condition actually inspired her most famous television show, The Patty Duke Show. Producers were intrigued by her frequently shifting moods, and decided to pitch the premise of a show where Patty Duke played wildly different twin sisters.
Patty Duke suffered a lot of tragedy throughout her life, but through her talent and perseverance, she still managed to become an inspiration for people all over the world. Were you more surprised to learn about the exploitation she faced from her agents, or about her personal struggles with bipolar disorder? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!