Patty Duke biography
In 1963, at age 16, American actress Patty Duke won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker—becoming the youngest Oscar recipient at the time. As her success on the screen continued, she began to privately unravel due to drug and alcohol abuse and manic-depression. She is best known for her rein as the Queen of TV Movies, starring in cult classics like Valley of the Dolls and Me, Natalie.
Patty Duke was born Anna Marie Duke on December 14, 1946, in Elmhurst, New York. Duke and her siblings grew up in a difficult household, raised by an alcoholic father and manic-depressive mother. She was introduced to acting by her brother's managers, John and Ethel Ross. Duke began acting in commercials, soon moving on to a few movies roles and some bit parts.
Acclaimed Role in 'The Miracle Worker'
Duke's first big role came in 1951, when she was cast as Helen Keller in the Broadway version of The Miracle Worker. In 1962, the play was turned into a feature film, in which Duke starred. For her performance in the film, the 16-year-old Duke won an Academy Award for best supporting actress—making her the youngest person to win an Oscar at that time. (Tatum O'Neal would become the youngest recipient in Oscar history in 1973, when she received the coveted award for her performance in Paper Moon.)
Sadly, following her Oscar win, Duke began to privately unravel; her family history of manic-depression began to plague her. She began drinking heavily and abusing drugs, and attempted suicide several times. But all the while, her work continued.
'The Patty Duke Show' and Later Projects
In 1962, Duke starred in her own sitcom called The Patty Duke Show, which lasted three seasons and earned her an Emmy nomination. In 1965, she headlined the acclaimed film Billie, which was to be the first movie ever sold to a television network. Thus began her reign as the "Queen of TV Movies." She starred in the cult classic Valley of The Dolls in 1967, and appeared in an independent film called Me, Natalie in 1969. Though the latter did poorly with audiences, her performance earned her a second Golden Globe Award.
In 1976, Duke won her second Emmy for the highly successful mini-series Captains and the Kings. Other popular TV movies followed, including the 1979 TV movie version of The Miracle Worker in which she portrayed Annie Sullivan, a role that won her a third Emmy. In 1984, she became president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Duke was married to Harry Falk from 1965 to 1969. In 1969, she discovered she was pregnant; the baby's father was unknown, but she suspected it was Desi Arnaz, Jr., with whom she had a tumultuous affair. It later proved to be the baby of rock promoter Michael Tell, to whom she was married for less than two weeks.
Duke also had a brief marriage with actor John Astin, of The Addams Family fame. He adopted her illegitimate son, and fathered her second son, Mackenzie, in 1973. The couple divorced in 1985. In 1986, she married Michael Pierce, a drill sergeant whom she met while preparing for a television role.
The couple adopted a son, Kevin, in 1989.
Patty Duke was officially diagnosed with manic-depressive illness in 1982. Her 1987 autobiography, Call Me Anna, was made into a TV movie in 1990. Her second book, A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depression Illness, was published in 1992.