When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with Patty Duke and Sally Field. They both had tv shows in reruns (The Patty Duke Show, Gidget and The Flying Nun) but, more importantly, Patty Duke played up and coming Broadway star Neely O’Hara in one of my all time favorite camp films – Valley of the Dolls. Baby, that bathroom scene with her and Susan Hayward is everything! However, my all time favorite Patty Duke moment came when a rerun of “The Miracle Worker” came on television.
Apparently, after watching this film, I went to school pretending to be blind to the point where my the teachers phoned my mother begging her to make me stop…lol!
So, I would be remiss in not paying tribute to such an amazing talent, wonderful human being, Mom and mental health advocate on the day she closed her eyes and joined the acting angels.
Native New Yorker, Anna Marie “Patty” Duke Pierce, she became one of the most famous teenagers ever, when she portrayed Helen Keller on Broadway and again on the screen earning her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (becoming the youngest (16 years old) person to win at that time). The stage version of The Miracle Worker ran for over 700 performances, which is nowadays unprecedented for a play.
Duke would go on to win one of her three Emmy winning performances in “My Sweet Charlie”, be one of only two women to serve as President of the Screen Actors Guild and become an advocate for mental health after being diagnosed as bi-polar. Duke would go on to write two books on that subject entitled, “Call Me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness”
Her brightest contribution to our industry would be there two sons with the late actor John Astin, Sean and Mac and her last marriage to Sgt. Michael Pearce.
Almost fifty years after her acting debut, Patty Duke was still going strong as an actress who starred in about a dozen feature films, over seventy movies for television and was one of the few stars who has survived being a child star by managing to become a successful and well-respected adult actress.
When recently talking about her life, Duke commented, “I am finally, most of the time, happy with the product. I now think it is OK to be Patty Duke.” What Anna doesn’t seem to always realize about herself is that she’s far better than OK. She’s astonishing.
RIP Anna Marie Patty Duke Pearce…you were loved and will most definitely be missed, especially by those who lives you have left an indelible mark on creatively…like mine. I think Helen Keller said it best… “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart”.