Former child star, Oscar winner, cult movie idol and overall Hollywood legend Patty Duke died early this morning. She was 69. Patty Duke’s son Sean Astin (aka Samwise in The Lord of the Rings movies) confirmed the sad news on Facebook by posting a statement from his family. Patty Duke (born name: Anna Marie Duke) died from sepsis from a ruptured intestine. Here’s the family’s statement:
This morning, our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian, and champion for mental health, Anna PATTY DUKE Pearce, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place. We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.
Patty Duke’s long career started when she was just a kid. She did a soap opera, commercials and a game show before her big break came. When she was 13, she got cast as Helen Keller opposite Anne Bancroft’s Annie Sullivan in the original Broadway production of The Miracle Worker. Patty played Helen in The Miracle Worker movie too, and it won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress when she was just 16. Because she became the “it’ child star of the time, ABC created a sitcom for her in 1963. Patty Duke played cousins, Patty and Cathy Lane, in The Patty Duke Show for 3 seasons.
After The Patty Duke Show ended, she continued to do movies, TV shows and she put out music. She won 3 Emmys including one for playing Annie Sullivan in a TV movie version of The Miracle Worker in 1979.
In 1987, Patty Duke wrote in her memoirs that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and she became an advocate for mental health causes. And pretty recently, she teamed up with fellow Hollywood treasure George Takei to teach the oldies how to sign up for social security benefits online.
Patty was married four times. About two weeks ago, she celebrated her 30th anniversary with her husband Michael Pearce. She had three children. There was a little scandal surrounding her son Sean’s biological father. This is from her Wikipedia page:
Her son, actor Sean Astin, was born on February 25, 1971. Though Duke said in her 1987 autobiography that John Astin was Sean’s biological father, she later stated that she had always believed that Desi Arnaz, Jr. was Sean’s actual biological father. It turned out that neither statement was correct; in 1994, Sean Astin underwent biological testing to determine his paternity, and the results showed that Astin’s father is actually Michael Tell.
Of course, those of us who appreciate camp, glamour and true acting, know Patty Duke best for the tour de force performance she gave when she played legendary train wreck Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls. One of the biggest crimes in Oscar history is that Patty Duke didn’t get one for that toilet wig scene alone.
Rest in peace, Patty Duke. You’re probably walking through the gates of heaven as the gay angels worship at your feet while saying, “boobies, boobies, boobies,” “Neely O’Hara is ALIVE!” and “sparkle, Neely, sparkle.”