Tribute: Patty Duke

Posted on March 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm

We mourn the loss of Oscar-winner Patty Duke, who played the part of the blind and deaf child Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, first on the Broadway stage and then on film. Her discovery of language as the water from the pump poured over her hand, is one of the most memorable scenes in the history of film. Her autobiography, Call Me Anna, told the harrowing story of how her unstable mother essentially turned her over at age seven to talent managers who were explotive and abusive. Her name was Anna, but they decided Patty was more suitable. They pushed her, drilled, her, controlled every minute of her time and everything she wore and said. They also gave her alcohol and pills, abused her, and stole the money she earned. The book was adapted as a movie for television and she played herself as an adult.

She was fierce and fearless as Helen Keller.

In a remake, she played Annie Sullivan, opposite Melissa Gilbert as Helen.

As a young woman, the managers had her playing identical cousins in a silly but very popular sitcom.

She left her squeeky-clean image behind by playing a drug-addicted singing star in the trashy Valley of the Dolls.

She later developed substance abuse problems and was diagnosed as bipolar at age 35. She co-wrote a book about mental illness and became an advocate for destigmatizing mental disorders and for her fellow actors as the head of the Screen Actors Guild.

May her memory be a blessing.

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