'Miracle Worker,' Sitcom Star Patty Duke Dead at 69 - Rolling Stone
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Patty Duke, ‘Miracle Worker,’ Sitcom Star, Dead at 69

Prolific actress won three Emmys, Oscar for portrayal of Helen Keller

Patty Duke, the prolific actress who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 69.

“This morning, our beloved wife, mother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian and champion of mental health, Anna Patty Duke, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place,” her family wrote in a statement. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”

Over her astounding 60-year career, Duke — born Anna Marie Duke — starred in countless plays, films and television shows, including her own sitcom, The Patty Duke Show. She scored a Top 10 Billboard hit in 1965 with “Don’t Just Stand There,” penned two best-selling books — Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness — and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988.

Duke began her acting career as a teenager, appearing on various television programs before scoring her first major starring role in The Miracle Worker on Broadway in 1959. Both Duke and her co-star Anne Bancroft (who played Keller’s tutor, Annie Sullivan) reprised their roles in the 1962 film adaptation, winning Oscars for Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, respectively.

In 1963, The Patty Duke Show premiered and featured Duke famously pulling double duty as two drastically different, but identical-looking cousins. The show aired over 100 episodes during its run between 1963 and 1966, after which Duke sought to shed her child star image with a role in campy cult classic, Valley of the Dolls.

Though her career was fraught with ups and downs, Duke was rarely at a loss for work. She won two Golden Globes, and picked up three Emmys, including one in 1980 for the TV adaptation of The Miracle Worker, in which she now played Sullivan.

Her first Emmy win, 10 years prior, was notable for other reasons, however. While accepting the award for her performance in the TV movie, My Sweet Charlie, Duke appeared glassy-eyed and out of sorts, and many speculated that she was on drugs. Only years later, was it revealed that Duke was in the middle of a mental breakdown after finally being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Duke detailed her often tumultuous career as a child star and struggles with bipolar disorder in her two books, the first of which was published in 1988. She went on to serve as a fervent advocate for mental health causes, as well.

In her final years, Duke remained active as an actress. She made a guest appearance on Glee in 2013 and the Disney Channel series, Liv and Maddie in 2015. Before her death, she filmed a role in the upcoming Christian movie, Power of the Air, which is scheduled to arrive next year.

In This Article: Obituary


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