Patty Duke: A Look Back At Her Tragic Yet Inspiring Life

Herbie J Pilato

[This article is based on entertainment postings and media reports from,,,,,, and the book, Glamour, Gidgets And The Girl Next Door: Television's Top Female Icons From The '50s, '60s, And '70s.]

"You need to continue to work, some of us, until you sort out the other things and resolve as many as you can."

That's what actress Patty Duke told journalist Katie Couric on NBC's Today Show in 1992.

Duke, who died in 2016, was one of a kind in Hollywood. In addition to her immense theatrical talent, she was kind, generous, and down-to-earth.

According to, the actress was born on December 14, 1946, in Manhattan, New York. She was notable for her significant achievements in Hollywood, including Golden Globe Awards, an Academy Award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and three Primetime Emmy Awards. Beyond the camera, Duke was known for her advocacy in the field of mental health.

The multi-talented performer was most famous for her riveting portrayal of the real-life hearing and visually-impaired Helen Keller in the 1962 feature film The Miracle Worker (which was adapted from the Broadway play of the same title in which Duke also starred at only 12 years old).

From 1963 to 1966, she was the teenage star of her own TV sitcom, The Patty Duke Show.

As Duke once revealed in her memoir, Call Me Anna, "Though I've been a professional actress since I was seven or eight, acting was never a dream of mine. Yet when I think back to my earliest memory, it was of performing."

As documented on, when Duke won her Academy Award, she was then "the youngest person to garner the full-size Oscar."

But in the years that followed, Duke focused on her mental health advocacy and, as chronicled, "the actress suddenly saw herself inspiring countless others."

In an interview with Variety, Duke's co-star Melissa Gilbert, who starred with the actress in a TV remake of The Miracle Worker, said, "She was so loved by so many people. She had a mind-boggling depth of talent...and survived being a child actor in the worst of circumstances...she was an extraordinary human being."

As chronicled by, Duke had wed four times before her death. Her first husband was Harry Falk, and they were married from 1965 to 1969. She married her second husband, Michael Tell, from 1970 to 1971. Her third husband was John Astin [of classic TV's The Adams Family fame]. They tied the knot in 1972, and eventually divorced n 1985."

In the end, Duke died at age 69 in 2016, following a life challenged by a bipolar mental state, and the betrayal of several individuals within her professional and personal arenas.

According to USA Today, one of Duke's representatives told the press, "Her cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured intestine. She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a mental health advocate, and a cultural icon. She will be missed."

And never forgotten.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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