When people think of Patty Duke and her career, it is with fond memories of a talented actress. Her performances touched many generations. I know I join a legion of Patty Duke fans who were sadden to hear about her death today at the age of 69.
Depending on when you grew up or if you are a television, film or theater buff, there is that one Patty Duke role that stirs special feelings within you.
Born Anna Marie Duke on December 14, 1946, Patty Duke began her career on the soap opera A Brighter Day in the 1950s and appeared as Tootie Smith, the role played by Margaret O’ Brien, in a television adaptation of Meet Me In St Louis.
But it was her breakout role as Helen Keller in the film The Miracle Worker that made the acting industry take notice and earned the then 16 an Academy Award.
As a twin, I’ll always remember Patty’s turn as identical cousins, Patricia “Patty” Lane and Catherine “Cathy” Lane on The Patty Duke Show. The sweet, girl next door Patty Duke’s role as Neely O’ Hara in Valley Of The Dolls showed audiences that she could successfully play against type.
Patty Duke continued to have a very successful film, stage and television career and even earned an Emmy playing Anne Sullivan to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen Keller (Duke’s Oscar winning role) in a 1979 television movie version of The Miracle Worker. As Patty Duke’s credits are too numerous too list and plus I’d prefer this to be less of a Wikipedia source and more of an expression of appreciation of her performances, I want to say that when an actress reaches two generations in a family who watched her work together, that says a lot.
One of my favorite television roles of Patty Duke’s was when she starred in the FOX sitcom, Karen’s Song in 1987. She played a 40 year old woman in a relationship with a 28 year man (Lewis Smith). Actress Teri Hatcher (Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) played her daughter.
Patty Duke served as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985-1988. She also suffered from bipolar disorder and was an advocate for mental health illness.
My colleagues at The Nerdy Girl Express and I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Patty Duke. She’ll be missed.
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