Acclaimed Actress Patty Duke Dead at 69

Oscar-Winning actress Patty Duke had died at the age of 69. Her agent, Mitchell Stubbs, said she died from sepsis caused by a ruptured intestine. She passed away in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho.

Patty Duke

In 1962 Ms. Duke won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker – the story of how Keller learned to communicate. At the time she [Duke] became the youngest actress to win the honor at 16.

Duke as Helen Keller

Patty Duke gained further notoriety in her well-known role in the teen comedy series, “The Patty Duke Show,” where she starred at identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane. Where the character Patty Lane was a lively, talkative, adventurous teen, Cathy was the perfect foil of poise, intelligence, and sophistication. Ms. Duke starred in this show from 1963-1966 (she also appeared in 2 episodes of the series as a third identical cousin, southern belle Betsy).



In a turn of irony, the producer of The Patty Duke Show, producer Sydney Shelton noticed that Ms. Duke has two distinct sides to her personality and that is how the concept for the show was born. At the time no one knew, not even Patty Duke, that she suffered from Bipolar Disorder.

Duke has a tumultuous acting career and personal life – not all due to her illness. She was married four times and, it has been reported, had several affairs. One said affair resulted in the confusion over the paternity of her son Sean Astin – it was later revealed that he was the son of a lover turned brief husband, rock producer Michael Tell.

Later on in life Duke became well-known as a mental health advocate after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982. She wrote about her struggles in her 1987 autobiography Call Me Anna. She was the first celebrity to go public about her bipolar disorder and heavily contributed to the de-stigmatization of the disease.


Ms. Duke is survived by her fourth husband Michael Pearce, her son’s Sean and Mackenzie Astin and adopted son Kevin Pearce, as well as three granddaughters.

She will be missed.

Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah Beyah
Khuwailah "Cookie" Beyah hails from North Carolina. She is a pop culture nut and loves all things Nathan Fillion. Ms. Beyah has a passion for the macabre and the horror genre. She serves on the "Nevermore Film Festival" selection committee in Durham, NC and attends several comic and horror conventions each year. She holds an MA from Duke University, but is a dyed in the wool North Carolina Tar Heel fan! She also enjoys writing and reading creative non-fiction.