Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Obituary: Patty Duke

Patty Duke aka Anna Marie Duke was born 17 December 1946 as the youngest of three children to be born to John and Frances Duke {Source}.

When she was six years old, her mother (who was suffering from un-diagnosed mental illness) kicked her father out of their family home. Duke barely saw her father after that.

In 1955 or so, she made her stage debut during a play at the local YMCA with her elder brother Raymond (19), he managed to catch the eye of a couple of talent agents, John and Ethel Ross {Source}. After several projects together, Ray and the Rosses came across a project that needed a little girl to play Ray's sister...in came Anna (talk about type casting!). The Rosses were introduced to the young Anna, and immediately saw the spark in her that they had seen a few years earlier in her brother. There was a slight problem with little Anna Marie-she had a thick New Yorker accent, which would make her difficult to cast as anything but a New Yorker {Source}. However, the Rosses were up for the challenge, and quickly got to work correcting her dialect {Source}. Soon after, Anna wasted no time, quickly landing television jobs {Source}. Her speaking voice was so good, she eventually was cast a the young British Catherine in Wuthering Heights on television {Source}.

In the next couple of years, she appeared along side the industry's top performers-Helen Hayes, Laurence Oliver, Gloria Vanderbilt, Richard Burton, just to name a few {Source}. She worked steadly in television for several years, then the film offers began to pour in {Source}. She was uncredited in several films including I'll Cry Tomorrow {Source}. She made her film debut in 1958 in The Goddess, playing the title role at a young age, opposite Kim Stanley who played the role as an adult {Source}. During the next two years she was also featured in The 4D Man, starring Robert Lansing, Country Music Holiday, with Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Happy Anniversary where David Niven and Mitzi Gaynor played her parents. None of these would bring her the stardom that Broadway had previously {Source}.

In 1959, Anna made her big debut as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker {Source}. To prepare her for the role, John Ross would blindfold her to see if she could find her way around a room and moving the furniture while she was blindfolded {Source}. After intensely training for over a year, it was Anna's chance to audition for the role of Helen Keller {Source}. When she auditioned for the part, the producer and director where amazed at how convincing she was, they eventually hired her to play opposite Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan {Source}. The production opened in October 1959, with the best reviews ever for a Broadway play {Source}. In 1960, the young Anna was awarded the Theatre World Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the production received The Tony Award for Best Play {Source}. In 1960, her career skyrocketed to her becoming the youngest star on Broadway {Source}.

Of course, her life wasn't perfect. John and Ethel Ross spoke with Anna's mother about having complete control over her daughter-to make sure she stayed focused on acting and little else, and they wanted her to move in with them full time so they could teach her full time {Source}. Being strapped for cash and being emotional issues of her own, Frances agreed to let the Rosses take her youngest daughter {Source}. For the next several years, Anna took it personally and resented her mother for giving her up to the Rosses {Source}. In the meantime, the Rosses had professionally changed her name from Anna to Patty Duke, and were controlling her every move-what she ate, exactly what to say in interviews, even when her mother could visit her {Source}! Frances would visit her daughter from time-to-time, but usually it was to do her laundry, and was once even asked to use the servant's door {Source}! The Rosses were controlling her enough to where they couldn't bear to let anyone get in the way of their little fortune, event the fortune's own mother {Source}!


Before long, the Rosses were both heavy drinkers and invited a teenage Anna along to the "party" {Source}. While she was still young, the Rosses were feeding her prescription pills and alcohol {Source}. She was also subject to sexual abuse {Source}. She wasn't even permitted to shut the bathroom door for more than 10 minutes at a time {Source}.

The Miracle Worker ran for almost two years{Source}. After it's closing, the Rosses began to look for a play with a suitable role for their little star{Source}. Isle of Children was being produced at Cort Theatre on Broadway, and was auditioning for a young, dying girl{Source}. The show opened in 1962, again with rave reviews for Anna{Source}. Despite the great reviews, the show was a box office flop and closed shortly after{Source}.

However, things quickly turned for Anna, after it was announced that The Miracle Worker was being adapted for a feature film-and she and Anne Bancroft were both offered their original parts from Broadway{Source}. She was beyond thrilled to work with Bancroft again, along with Fred Coe, and Arthur Penn{Source}. The film did not get the same reception as the play had, however it did win Anna more awards. She was awarded a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer of 1962, and was nominated for an Best Supporting Actress Academy Award{Source}.

Anna's happiness of the news she was going to Hollywood for the Oscars was short-lived-her mother and her family were not invited to attend with them{Source}. Anna would attend with the Rosses and their dog{Source}. Anna was devastated that the most important person in her life (her mother) had to miss her biggest night of her young life{Source}. Although she had some stiff competition-Anna won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar at the ripe old age of sixteen{Source}! This was an Academy record until Tatum O'Neal won for 1973's Paper Moon{Source}. Duke was also the youngest person to have a television show named after her{Source}. The Patty Duke Show made it's television debut in 1963, revolving around two young identical cousins (both portrayed by Duke){Source}. This required twice the work, twice the number of hours, and because there were no child labor laws back then, they could work her all day if they wished{Source}. The success of the show was quick-and due to this the Rosses became even more control freaks than they already were{Source}.

At seventeen years old, she found her father, whom she hadn't seen in about a decade, had died, alone in a rooming house{Source}. Her father had only two things on him when he died-an autographed photo of his daughter and a letter written by his son Raymond{Source}. The Rosses allowed her to attend the funeral-but only if she went to the television studio to be made up properly first{Source}. She was allowed very little time to grieve for her father's passing{Source}.The Show must go on...and it did. Then came the mountains of merchandise-including a studio album (even though Anna thought she couldn't sing){Source}.

The one thing the Rosses couldn't control-Anna's new found interest in men{Source}. Previously, she had not been allowed to date, but that didn't stop her interest in the assistant director, Harry Falk{Source}. Their romance started off slow-flirting then turned into a full blown romance{Source}. In order to regain control over her, the Rosses moved the production-and Duke-to California{Source}. However, the tactic didn't work-Harry followed them to California, and the relationship continued{Source}.

During her time in California, Anna was cast in a part in the film Billie{Source}. Anna hadn't wanted to do the role, but was forced into it by the Rosses{Source}. Her hair was cut and bleached (badly) and she was forced to sing on the soundtrack{Source}.

With the rapping of Billie and the final season of The Patty Duke Show underway, Anna decided it was time to move out on her own{Source}. Soon after she moved away from the Rosses, she married Harry and they moved to Beverly Hills{Source}. She tried playing the role of a grown up married lady but due to her upbringing-a mentally ill mother and abusive caretakers-she was ill equipped to do such a role{Source}. Her depression that started a few years earlier became increasingly worse{Source}.

Matters were made worse, when ABC canceled The Patty Duke Show in 1966 after 104 episodes{Source}. Anna held mixed emotions about the ending-she was relieved as she thought the show was dumb anyway{Source}. When Anna married Harry, she cashed her savings bonds from her earnings, which should've netted her close to a million dollars...but not so much{Source}. The Rosses had spent the majority of the funds on their good times over the years-vacations, booze, and drugs{Source}.

Soon after the ending of The Patty Duke Show, Harry committed his wife to a mental facility due to her wild highs and suicidal tendencies{Source}. She was humiliated to be in the hospital, but played the part of a model patient and "acted" her way out{Source}.

After her release, the couple learned Twentieth Century Fox was in the process of casting for the film adaptation of Valley of the Dolls{Source}. Anna was eager to get the part of Neely O'Hara, but the producers wanted her to audition for the role because it would be the kind of adult role that people were not used to seeing her in{Source}. Anna was highly insulted, but eventually agreed to the audition and won the part{Source}.

She and the film's director did not get along, therefore filming was miserable for Anna{Source}. The film turned into both a personal flop for Anna and a professional one{Source}. After the 1967 release of Valley, Anna didn't work much {Source}. In 1968, she was offered the lead in the film Me, Natalie{Source}. During the filing, she and Harry decided to end their marriage, which caused her to attempt suicide{Source}. She passed out and had to have her stomach pumped, but was okay to go on{Source}. She continued filming and eventually won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in Me, Natalie{Source}. However, despite her personal success with the film, the film was a flop{Source}. After two major flops, Anna went back to television{Source}. She was mentioned for the part of Marlene Chambers in My Sweet Charlie, a role she had been mentioned for years ealrier for the Broadway production, but was hospitalized at the time{Source}. It was for My Sweet Charlie that Anna would win her first Emmy{Source}.

During this time, she found out the John Ross had died of a heart attack-despite of their past and differences, Anna was deeply effected by his death{Source}. Soon after she began to date Desi Arnaz, Jr. {Source}. Lucy was displeased with the match up-Desi was only 17 years old, and Anna was already once divorced and in her early 20s{Source}. Other than Lucy, their other issue was the American tabloid magazines, both factors caused major strain in their romance and they eventually parted ways{Source}.

Soon after her affair with Desi ended, she began a secret love affair with John Astin (Gomez in The Addams Family){Source}. Anna wound up pregnant, but couldn't tell anyone due to the fact by the time she had uncovered the pregnancy, John had gone back to his wife and three children{Source}. Again, she found herself at the top of tabloid news, most assumed the child was Desi's{Source}. At the time, Anna was Catholic, unmarried and pregnant{Source}. She married a man who sublet-ed her apartment in LA while she was in Chicago doing a play{Source}. The marriage was annulled less than two weeks later{Source}. Sean Astin was born on 17 February 1971{Source}. After his birth, Duke's behavior calmed down for a bit{Source}. In 1971, she believed that Desi Anz was his father, but he was raised by John Astin. It was later determined through DNA testing that neither is true-his biological father is her first husband, Michael Tell {Source}. There was little to no maternity leave for this actress! She went back to work two weeks after birthing her first child to film the TV film If Tomorrow Comes, and soon thereafter flew to Boston to shoot another one entitled Two on a Bench{Source}. During the filming of Bench, which co-stared her former flame John Astin, Astin realized that Sean was his child{Source}. John adopted Sean shortly thereafter and Patty and John were married in 1972{Source}. In 1973, they welcomed their second son, Mackenzie Alexander{Source}.

After a couple of years, Anna changed her professional name to Patty Duke Astin, and shortly thereafter, John's sons from previous relationships joined their family and she quickly adopted them as her own{Source}. Already in her late 20s, Patty was the mother to five sons-David, Tom, Alan, Sean & Mackenzie{Source}. She also suffered from a yet-to-be diagnosed mental illness, which often caused havoc in the household{Source}. During this time, the family toured the country, where John and Patty would appear in many theatrical productions{Source}. The duo often guest starred on several of the era's top television shows{Source}. During this time, Anna continued to work on her own as well.

In 1974, she starred in Nightmare and it's television squeal, Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby in 1976. In 1976, she co-starred in Captains and the Kings, which she won her first Best Actress Emmy{Source}. The next few years were steady work for Duke{Source}.

In 1978, tragedy struck her again-this time with the death of Ethel Ross, who she had seen infrequently over the years since John's death{Source}. However, unlike with John, Duke and Ethel had a "bit of resolution"{Source}. Also in 1978, she was nominated for two additional Emmys, the movies Having Babies 3 and A Family Upside Down{Source}. The late 1970s and into the 1980s were very busy and semi-productive years for Anna{Source}.

She began to see a psychiatrist{Source}. Dr. Arlen diagnosed her with Manic Depression (Bi-Polar Disorder){Source}. At last-her unknown demon had a name-and a treatment! Soon after she was prescribed Lithium to soothe her symptoms{Source}. The treatment was successful!{Source}. However, it was much too late and she had suffered far too long with her issues{Source}. The Astin marriage began to crumble{Source}. The couple legally separated, reconciled, and divorced in 1985{Source}. Instead of dwelling, Anna got right back to what she did best-acting{Source}. She did a few mini-series, soap operas (one of which she co-starred with her son Mackenzie), among other projects{Source}.


After undergoing some "research" for a film role during "basic training for the army", she fell in love with her trainer, Sgt. Michael Pearce{Source}. He was separated from his current wife and had two daughters{Source}. On 15 March 1986, they were married{Source}. In 1989, Mike and Anna celebrated their union by adopting a one year old child, Kevin{Source}.

After a short honeymoon period, Anna began to work once again-a short lived television series and wrote her autobiography (available on Amazon) were in her hand for 1987 {Source}. After her autobiography's release, she began to speak out for mental health, among other social issues-women's rights, AIDS, and the Screen Actor's Guild{Source}. From 1985-1988, she served as President of the Screen Actor's Guild{Source}.

The 1990s were good to Anna as well-she worked a stage production, starred in the TV adaption of her autobiography, did several successful television films, and watched her son Sean get married{Source}. She and the producers used the film adaptation as a platform for The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill{Source}. Her publishers then approached her with another book idea-and A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness was published in 1992{Source}. She also uprooted her family-Mike, Anna and Kevin-to Northern Idaho, where they resided on a farm{Source}.

In 1993, she had a goodbye to say to her mother{Source}. After many years of suffering mental illness like her daughter, her mother died{Source}. This time Anna allowed herself time to reflect and grieve{Source}. In 1995, she was back at it-this time taking a stab at acting and producing a television series, which was short-lived{Source}. The late 1990s and early 2000s were good to Anna....she fulfilled many life-long dreams{Source}. She starred in films for The Halmark Hall of Fame, made her musical theatre debut in Follies in Los Angeles, played Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!'s Broadway revival{Source}.


However, her life in the 1990s was also filled with several downs. In 1998, her daughter died in a car accident at the age of 22{Source}. In 2002, she was in a near-tragic horse accident, but miraculously recovered{Source}. She lived her last years as a happy wife, mother, grandmother, mental health spokesperson, and actress{Source}.


Patty Duke is survived by three sons, three stepsons and three granddaughters-19 year old Alexandra "Ali" Astin (actress, known for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), 13 year old Elizabeth Astin and 10 year old Isabella Astin.