Patty Duke Dies At 69
The actor, who won an Academy Award at 16 for The Miracle Worker, was a longtime advocate for mental health.
Patty Duke, best known for her Oscar-winning turn in The Miracle Worker and her titular series The Patty Duke Show, has died at 69. Her representative Mitchell Squires confirmed to BuzzFeed News that her cause of death was sepsis from a ruptured intestine.
Duke, who was born in Queens in 1946, began acting at an early age. After appearances in commercials and soap operas, Duke's breakthrough role came in 1959 when she played Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker on Broadway. She reprised the role for the 1962 film adaptation, for which she earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, then the youngest person to receive the award. Duke went on to star as identical cousins Patty and Cathy on The Patty Duke Show, which ran from 1963 to 1966.
Duke's transition to more adult fare was cemented with her role as Neely O'Hara in the 1967 cult classic Valley of the Dolls. As Neely, Duke popped pills and guzzled booze in her descent to rock bottom. Though widely criticized, Valley of the Dolls developed a devoted fan following, and while Duke long refused to talk about it, she came to embrace the film's camp appeal in later years, making an appearance at a 2009 screening at San Francisco's Castro Theatre.
Duke's struggle with her mental health was well documented. After being diagnosed as bipolar in 1982, she became an advocate for mental health issues and spoke openly about the challenges she faced. Duke was the first celebrity to come forward with her bipolar diagnosis, and later partnered with organizations designed to raise awareness of mental health issues. She wrote two autobiographies, Call Me Anna and Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness, in which she documented her lifelong battle.
She is survived by her husband, Michael Pearce; her three sons, Kevin Pearce, Mackenzie Astin, and the actor Sean Astin, best known for his role in the Lord of the Rings films; and her three granddaughters.