Oscar Actors: Duke, Patty–Background; Career; Awards; Cumulative Advantage

Anna Marie “Patty” Duke was born December 14, 1946; she died March 29, 2016, age 69.

Cumulative Advantage

Over the course of her acting career, she was the recipient of an Oscar Award, two Golden Globe Awards, three Primetime Emmy Awards, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

At age 15, Duke portrayed Helen Keller in the film The Miracle Worker (1962), a role that she had originated on Broadway. She won the Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

The following year, she played the dual role of “identical cousins” Cathy and Patty Lane on her own show The Patty Duke Show (1963–1966). She progressed to more mature roles, such as Neely O’Hara in the film Valley of the Dolls (1967) and Natalie Miller in the film Me, Natalie (1969). The latter earned her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

From 1985 to 1988, she served as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG).

Duke was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, after which she devoted much of her time to advocating for and educating the public on mental health.

In 1962, Patty Duke competed for the Supporting Actress Oscar with another child actress, Mary Badham in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Shirley Knight in “Sweet Bird of Youth,” Angela Lansbury in “The Manchurian Candidate,” and Thelma Ritter in “Birdman of Alcatraz.”

Duke was born in Manhattan, New York, the youngest of three children of Frances Margaret (née McMahon), a cashier, and John Patrick Duke, a handyman and cab driver. She was of Irish, and more distant German, descent.

Duke, her brother Raymond, and her sister Carol had a difficult childhood. Their father was alcoholic, and their mother suffered from clinical depression and was prone to violence. When Duke was 6, her mother forced her father to leave the family home.

Raised by Talent Managers

When Duke was 8, her care was turned over to talent managers John and Ethel Ross, who, after promoting Patty’s brother, were looking for a girl to add to their stable of child actors.

The Rosses’ methods of managing Duke’s career were often unscrupulous and exploitative. They consistently billed Duke as being two years younger than she actually was and padded her resume with false credits. They gave her alcohol and prescription drugs, took unreasonably high fees from her earnings and made sexual advances to her.  She saw her father and saw her mother only when she visited to do the Rosses’ laundry.

The Rosses made Duke change her name. “Anna Marie is dead,” they said. “You’re Patty now.” They hoped that Patty Duke would duplicate the success of Patty McCormack.