60s Oldies Music

Patty Duke – An Ace Actress and Sometime Singer

Introduction to Patty Duke

Patty Duke
Publicity photo of Patty Duke. (Source: Wikipedia)

Patty Duke is an American actress, with her career starting as a child star. Her role as a young Hellen Keller in the biopic The Miracle Worker which won her an Oscar for best supporting actress. She later starred in her own sitcom The Patty Duke Show which ran for three seasons. As she became older, she took on more mature roles in the film The Valley of the Dolls and the TV movie My Sweet Charlie, which she won an Emmy award. Her brief singing career was otherwise considerably successful, scoring her most successful record “Don’t Just Stand There” in 1965. She’s still sporadically making appearances, and is now active in promoting mental health since she’s also known to have been suffering from a bipolar disorder.

Early life

Patty Duke was born Anna Marie Duke in the middle-class Queens neighborhood of Elmhurst, in New York on December 14, 1946. Duke had also an older brother and older sister. She grew up in a problematic household; his father was an alcoholic while her mother suffered clinical depression with violent tendencies. When she was eight years old, her mother expelled her father out. Duke was turned over to John and Ethel Ross. The Rosses eventually discovered the young girl’s talent and star potential, and became her managers.

Duke’s acting career, and her first Oscar win

Of course, Duke first started her career as a child actress. Her first acting job was in the late 1950s, on the TV drama The Brighter Day. She also made rounds as a print and commercial model.

Duke got further recognition when she appeared in her first major starring role as Helen Keller in the Broadway play The Miracle Worker. She starred opposite Anne Bancroft who portrayed Keller’s mentor Annie Sullivan; the play ran for a couple of years and made her into her Broadway sensation.

The play was later made into a 1962 film, also titled The Miracle Worker and starring both Duke and Bancroft. They later both won acting Oscars for their acting in the film, with sixteen-year-old Duke clinching Best Supporting Actress award. She became the youngest recipient ever yet to win a competitive Oscar award.

Rise to stardom with The Patty Duke Show

After her Oscar win, Duke returned to television. Her career very soon got a second wind when she was given her own series titled The Patty Duke Show, first broadcast in 1963 on ABC. The show became a big hit and made Patty Duke a household name. The series ran for about three seasons.

 

Duke’s brief singing and recording career

Duke and her company decided to take advantage of her fame by launching herself as a recording artist. She released her first single “Don’t Just Stand There,” a pop song written by Bernice Ross and Lor Crane. It became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 at #8 in 1965.

 

Duke followed this up with “Funny Little Butterflies” (co-written by Ross, Crane and Jack Gold) which didn’t quite hold on its own on the charts, peaking at only #77 in 1965. A little later that same year she released her third single, another Ross-Crane song “Say Something Funny” which somewhat bounced back as a Top 40 hit (at #22). All of these songs were included in her debut LP Don’t Just Stand There, which registered at #90 on the Billboard 200.

Her last charting single was “Whenever She Holds You” which peaked at #64 on the Hot 100 in 1966. She also released a handful of other singles such as “Little Things Mean a Lot,” “The Wall Came Tumbling Down,” “Why Don’t They Understand,” “Come Live With Me” and “Dona, Dona,” the last which Duke performed live at the Ed Sullivan Show.

In her brief recording and singing career Duke managed to release a considerable number of other albums: Patty, Patty Duke’s Greatest Hits, TV’s Teen Star, Songs from Valley of the Dolls and Other Selections, and Patty Duke Sings Folk Songs. Most of her material were released on United Artists label, and her songs as well as her image put her in line with the other teen sensations at that time such as Lesley Gore and Shelley Fabares.

Later life and career

Her recording career may be over, but Duke still pursued her acting career. She finally shed her youthful image by starring her first adult role in Valley of the Dolls, which has become a cult classic. She starred in other films such as Me, Natalie, but continued her work mostly on television. Duke also starred the TV movie My Sweet Charlie, which she won an Emmy award.

Duke also served as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988. She was then succeeded by another former child star Barry Gordon.

Since having been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder (then called manic depression) in 1982, Duke has been actively promoting mental health causes. She has been instrumental in increasing awareness in mental health issues, as well as funding and research for people with mental disorders.

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