Patty Duke Died at 69: Her Most Famous Roles from The Miracle Worker to Activist

Patty Duke died movies the miracle worker oscar
Patty Duke, who died March 29, at her 2004 Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony.

Patty Duke Died: Star of The Patty Duke Show, The Miracle Worker, Valley of the Dolls

Patty Duke, a child actress who won a Supporting Actress Oscar at age 16 for “The Miracle Worker” before starring in the successful TV series “The Patty Duke Show” and the cult classic movie “Valley of the Dolls,” has died at age 69.

“This morning, our beloved wife, mother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian and champion for mental health closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place,” her family said in a statement. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life.”

Patty Duke Died at Age 69: Cause of Death

Patty Duke died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine in a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

One of the most accomplished actresses in Hollywood, Duke worked in movies, television, philanthropy and labor. Here are some of her standouts:

1. Helen Keller, ‘The Miracle Worker’: Duke and Anne Bancroft reprised their critically acclaimed Broadway roles for the 1962 film about the famous young woman left blind and deaf by scarlet fever. The teenaged Duke almost didn’t get cast as Helen Keller opposite Bancroft’s Anne Sullivan because she was seen as too old to play her as a young girl. At the time she won the Academy Award, Duke was the youngest Oscar recipient (Subsequent winners Anna Paquin and Tatum O’Neal were younger). In 1980, Duke returned to “The Miracle Worker,” this time playing Anne Sullivan in a TV version, winning one of her three Emmy Awards in her career.

2. Patty Lane, ‘The Patty Duke Show’: The early 1960s sitcom about a rambunctious New York City teenager Patty Lane and her brainy identical “twin” cousin Cathy was created as a vehicle for Duke (it also had a catchy theme song), who played both roles and appeared on-screen at the same time using what was then cutting-edge TV technology. The show aired for three season on ABC — and forever more in reruns.

Patty Duke Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder: Activist for Mental Health

3. Neely O’Hara, “Valley of the Dolls’: Duke broke out of kid roles playing a boozing, drug-addicted singer in the 1967 adaptation of  Jacqueline Susann’s frothy best-seller. Duke’s outrageous performance alienated audiences who had loved her as a wholesome teen and nearly destroyed her Hollywood career, but the movie now is considered a cult classic.

4. Mental health advocate: Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, Duke became the first celebrity to go public with the disorder and became a lifelong activist raising money and awareness for mental health issues. In 2011, in the TV series “The Protector,” she played a character struggling with her bipolar disorder.

5. President, Screen Actors Guild: Four years after her “Patty Duke Show” costar William Schallert served as SAG president, Duke was elected to the position, heading the actors union from 1985 to 1988.