Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Video: Remembering Patty Duke
Patty Duke, who died on Tuesday at 69, overcame a painful childhood to become one of the best-known young actors in the world. After appearing in commercials and a few television shows as a child, she found fame on Broadway, starring with Anne Bancroft in William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker.” The play, about Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, ran from 1959 to 1961. Ms. Duke reprised the role in the 1962 film version of “The Miracle Worker,” which Bosley Crowther praised in The Times for retaining the play’s “absolutely tremendous and unforgettable display of physically powerful acting.” Ms. Duke won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the performance — at 16, she was then the youngest actor to win that award.
Ms. Duke returned to television for “The Patty Duke Show,” an era-defining sitcom of the more outwardly wholesome early 1960s. Ms. Duke played, as the infectious theme song put it, “cousins, identical cousins”: Patty, a fun-loving stereotypical American girl from Brooklyn Heights, and Cathy, a prim young lady from Scotland.
The show, created by Sidney Shelton (“I Dream of Jeannie,” “Hart to Hart”), featured celebrity guest stars including Frankie Avalon, Sal Mineo, Paul Lynde and Sammy Davis Jr. and ran from 1963 to 1966.
Ms. Duke’s next move telegraphed a desire to leave her child-actor past behind. She starred as a debauched singer in the film “Valley of the Dolls” in 1967, based on the Jacqueline Susann novel about good girls going bad and the perils of Hollywood.
This time, Mr. Crowther was not as charmed. “It’s an unbelievably hackneyed and mawkish mish-mash of backstage plots and ‘Peyton Place’ adumbrations in which five women are involved with their assorted egotistical aspirations, love affairs and Seconal pills,” he wrote.
Ms. Duke returned to television in the 1970s and would spend the next couple of decades starring mostly in TV movies, including as Anne Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker,” and the occasional feature film. In the 1982 she returned to sitcoms with “It Takes Two,” a topical comedy about the modern challenges that face a hard-charging, career-minded couple, also starring Richard Crenna.
She also began working to raise money and awareness for mental health issues after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the 1980s.
Though her celebrity peaked early, Ms. Duke suggested late in her career that she was more proud of her professionalism rather than past fame.
“I’m proud that when I get a job, I’m gonna give you what you paid for,” she said in a 2013 interview. “And maybe even more.”