Iconic actress and singer, Patty Duke passed away yesterday morning at the age of 69 due to complications of a ruptured intestine. As a talented actress, past president of the Screen Actors Guild, and mental health advocate, she will be greatly missed. Duke is survived by her husband, Michael Pearce, and her three children, Sean Astin, Mackenzie Astin, and Kevin Pearce.
Duke first rose to fame for her role as deaf and blind child, Helen Keller, in the 1962 movie, The Miracle Worker. For this role, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, and she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The following year, she began starring in the self-titled television show, The Patty Duke Show, where she played two cousins who looked identical. Though she did not know it while playing two separate characters on her show, Duke was actually suffering from bipolar disorder.
Her mental health issues would continue to haunt her, but Duke did not let them stop her from continuing to be a star. In 1965, she received two Top 40 Hits when her songs “Say Something Funny” and “Don’t Just Stand There” became popular. After years playing innocent children and teens, she had a breakout role as Neely O’Hara in the 1967 movie, Valley of the Dolls. Though audiences had trouble seeing the sweet, innocent child actress as an alcoholic singer who was addicted to drugs, her portrayal was still greatly praised.
Duke went on to star in several other television shows and movies. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her role in Me, Natalie, in 1969. Throughout the 1970s, Duke won three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress for rolls in My Sweet Charlie , The Miracle Worker, and Captains and Kings.
However, her career in the spotlight was taking a toll on Duke and she became increasingly erratic. In 1982, she was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Duke became an advocate who focused on raising awareness and collecting funds for research into the disease. She continued to fulfill this role for the rest of her life. After several tempestuous marriages, Duke married her fourth husband, Michael Pearce, in 1986, and they remained married until her death.