Patty Duke, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her performance as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” and starred as two cousins on her own sitcom, has died, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. 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,” read a family statement. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”
Although she performed in films, theater and TV, Duke was most successful in her TV acting career. Overall, she won three Emmy Awards: “The Miracle Worker,” “Captains and Kings,” and “My Sweet Charlie,” among eight total nominations.
At the same age, Duke was also the youngest at that time to have a TV series bearing her name, “The Patty Duke Show,” which ran for three seasons, beginning in 1963. Duke was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1965 for her dual performance as two identical cousins.
The series was based on a Sidney Sheldon pilot about two identical-looking cousins, one American and one English. Duke played two parts: the perky cousin and the studious cousin. William Schallert and Jean Byron played the parents.
She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for “Insight.” Duke won a Golden Globe as Most Promising Newcomer for “The Miracle Worker,” as well as a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Her film acting career was sporadic, peaking with her first production, “The Miracle Worker” and reaching most attention with “Valley of the Dolls” (1967) where, countering her squeaky-clean image, she played a pill-popping alcoholic. Her other film credits include: “Happy Anniversary” (1959), “By Design” (1982), “Willy/Milly” (1986), “The Hitch-Hikers” (1989), “Prelude to a Kiss” (1992), and “Bigger Than the Sky” (2005), among others.
Anna Marie Duke was born Dec. 14, 1946 in Elmhurst, N.Y. Duke got her first part as a film extra in 1955, and made her first television appearance as a dancer on the “The Voice of Firestone.” She earned her first TV credits on “Kraft Theatre” in 1957. During this “golden age” of television, Duke worked steadily in the new medium. She played the title role in the movie “The Goddess” (1958).
Her manager, John Ross, primed her for “The Miracle Worker,” intensively training her to do things without sight. She practiced with a blindfold for roughly a year. The regimen paid off: She was tapped by producers Arthur Penn and Fred Coe to play Keller, starring opposite Anne Bancroft.
“The Miracle Worker” opened on Broadway in 1959. Duke won praise from critics for her work as the deaf-blind- mute woman. At the age of thirteen, her name was raised above the title of the play, the first to be done so at such an early age. Duke was voted the Theater World Award as “Most Promising Newcomer.” At the time, her managers, John and Ethel Ross, had her name changed from Anna to “Patty Duke.”