(KNWA via NBC) — Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke, a beloved child star who became one of Hollywood’s most acclaimed actresses, is dead. She was 69.
Duke died Tuesday in Idaho from an infection after suffering a ruptured intestine, her manager said.
The Queens-born daughter of a troubled cashier and an alcoholic car driver, Duke overcame a dark childhood to hit the trifecta of stardom on TV, in the movies, and on Broadway. She was also president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988.Duke rocketed to fame in the 1960s as the star of “The Patty Duke Show,” which ran for 104 episodes over three seasons, and in which she played her rambunctious self as well as her more demure “identical cousin.”
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, Duke devoted her later years to championing mental health programs and raising her three sons, two of whom — Sean and Mackenzie Astin — followed in their mother’s footsteps and became actors as well.
“I love you Mom,” Sean Astin, who played Samwise Gamgee in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, said in a statement confirming his mother’s death.
Duke was married four times; she is also survived by her last husband, Michael Pearce, and their son, Kevin Pearce.
In a statement, Duke’s family called her a “beloved wife, mother, grandmother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian, and champion for mental health.”
She “closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place,” the statement read. “We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life. Her work endures…”
Born Anna Marie Duke in Dec. 14, 1946, Duke was one of three children. Her career was launched at age 8 when her mother, unable to cope with the kids, turned her over to talent scouts John and Ethel Ross, who saw gold in the perky young girl.
“Anna Marie is dead” Ethel Ross told her. “You’re Patty now.”
Duke made her Broadway debut at age 12 playing Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.” Three years later, at age 16, Duke won the best supporting actress Oscar reprising her role as the young Helen in the celebrated 1962 screen adaptation of the play.
Then in 1979, Duke won an Emmy playing Keller’s teacher — the role originally played on Broadway by Anne Bancroft — in a TV version of the same play.
But behind the scenes, Duke was miserable. In her memoir “Call Me Anna,” Duke claimed her managers controlled just about every aspect of her life and she began drinking and abusing prescription drugs as a teenager. She accused them of sexual abuse and of squandering her earnings. She attempted suicide.After “The Patty Duke Show” was cancelled, Duke starred in the camp classic “Valley of the Dolls.” She won a second Emmy for her turn in the 1970 Civil Rights drama “My Sweet Charlie” and a third in 1976 for her part in the TV mini-series “Captains and the Kings.” She also appeared in a variety of TV shows ranging from Police Story and Hawaii 5-O to Night Gallery.
Later, Duke became an advocate for the mentally ill, working with the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.