Patty Duke: A Look Back at Her Troubled Life 7 Years After Her Tragic Death

Herbie J Pilato


Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke died seven years ago in 2016 and was one of a kind in Hollywood. In addition to her immense theatrical talent, she was kind, generous, and down-to-earth.

A Closer Look

According to, Patty Duke 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 TV sitcom, The Patty Duke Show. In her later years, Duke focused on her mental health advocacy, and, as chronicled, “the actress suddenly saw herself inspiring countless others.”

Duke had wed four times before her demise. 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 in 1985.


In the end, Patty 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.

[Note: This article is based on accredited news and media reports, including linked information attributed to and USA Today.]

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including the newly-published CONNERY, SEAN CONNERY biography, the revised BIONIC BOOK, RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, and more. 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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