Remember This? Patty Duke

Dorri Partain
Contributor


In movies and on television, America watched Anna Marie “Patty” Duke grow up.


Born in 1946, she began her lifelong acting career at age 12, portraying the young Helen Keller in the stage production, “The Miracle Worker” on Broadway. Her performance as blind, deaf and mute earned her an Oscar when she portrayed Keller again in the 1962 film production also starring Anne Bancroft, making her the youngest actress at that time to be honored with the Best Supporting Actress award.


At age 16, she was the star of a television series, portraying a typical American teenager who “likes to rock ‘n’ roll while a hot dog makes her lose control” and her identical cousin Cathy, who “adores the minuet, the Ballet Russe and Crepe Suzette” in the ABC sitcom The Patty Duke Show.


Using split screen technology and a body double stand-in, Duke played Patty Lane and Cathy Lane, whose father was an identical twin to Patty’s father, Martin Lane, portrayed by William Schallert. Like Duke, Schallert also played the occasional appearance of his twin, Kenneth. Additional family members included Patty’s mother Natalie (Jean Byron), her younger pesky brother Ross (Paul O’Keefe), while Eddie Applegate played Patty’s goofy boyfriend Richard.


One hundred and four black-and-white episodes aired from 1963 to 1966, when the show ended. The following year, Duke portrayed a character more true to her actual life, Neely O’Hara in the movie “The Valley of the Dolls.” In 1984, Duke became the first female actor to be elected president of the Screen Actors Guild, a position she held until 1988.


In 1987, Duke wrote the first of two autobiographies, “Call Me Anna,” that delved into her struggle as a manic-depressive. Later, she used her well-known status to become a spokesperson for mental health issues; the Patty Duke Mental Health Initiative was founded in her memory after she passed in 2016.


Patty Duke and Mystery Mansion was based on the TV series and published in 1964. Written by Doris Scroeder, the book was one of a series featuring television celebrities published by Whitman Publishing Company.

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