Patty Duke, who as a teen won an Oscar for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and maintained a long and successful career throughout her life while battling personal demons, has died at the age of 69.
— Sean Astin (@SeanAstin) March 29, 2016
Duke’s agent, Mitchell Stubbs, says the actress died early Tuesday morning of sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She died in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, according to Teri Weigel, the publicist for her son, actor Sean Astin.
Duke found early success playing the young Keller first on Broadway, then in the acclaimed 1962 film version, both with Anne Bancroft as Helen’s teacher, Annie Sullivan.
Then in 1963, she burst on the TV scene starring in a sitcom, The Patty Duke Show, which aired for three seasons. She played dual roles under an unconventional premise: identical cousins living in Brooklyn, New York..
In 2015, she would play twin roles again: as a pair of grandmas on an episode of Liv and Maddie, a series on the Disney Channel.
“We’re so grateful to her for living a life that generates that amount of compassion and feeling in others,” Astin told The Associated Press in reflecting on the outpouring of sentiment from fans at the news of her death.
She had “really, really suffered” with her illness, Astin added.
Born Anna Marie Pearce in Queens, New York, on December 14, 1946, Duke had a difficult childhood with abusive parents.
Hi tweethearts and FB friends. I have been absent, but not far, believe me. I love and miss you all. Hopefully back more soon and often
— Patty Duke (@pattyduke_id) March 1, 2016
30 years ago today, Mike and I married. We having a very happy and quiet day. Love and hugs to all
— Patty Duke (@pattyduke_id) March 15, 2016
By the age of eight she was largely under the control of husband-and-wife talent managers who soon found her work on soap operas and print advertising.
In the meantime, they supplied her with alcohol and prescription drugs, which accelerated the effects of her undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
In her 1988 memoir, Call Me Anna, Duke wrote of her condition and its diagnosis only six years earlier, and of the treatment that subsequently stabilised her life. The book became a 1990 TV film in which she starred, and she became an activist for mental health causes, helping to de-stigmatise bipolar disorder.
Watch Patty Duke talk about revisiting “The Miracle Worker” on TODAY in 1979:https://t.co/ThjtjeffDn
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 29, 2016
In describing the role of Aunt Eller, and perhaps herself, she said, “This is a woman who has had strife in life, made her peace with some of it and has come to the point of acceptance. Not giving up.”