Award-winning actress Patty Duke hails from Elmhurst

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Actress Patty Duke was born Dec. 14, 1946, as Anna Marie Duke in Elmhurst. She is perhaps best known for her starring role in the eponymous sitcom “The Patty Duke Show” and her portrayal of drug-addicted Hollywood star Neely O’Hara in the 1967 camp classic “Valley of the Dolls.”

Duke is the younger sister of actor Ray Duke and also has an older sister named Karen. Since the mid-1970s, the Queens native has primarily appeared in television dramas, including an October 2011 role in the new “Hawaii Five-O” series on CBS. She also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985-88. Duke currently lives in Idaho with her husband Michael Pierce and is the mother of actors Sean and Mackenzie Astin.

Young Anna Marie came from a sad, dysfunctional family, and the experience would leave a lasting mark. Her father, John, was an alcoholic and her mother, Frances, suffered from severe depression and was prone to violence when dealing with her three children.

Her father left the family when she was 6 and Frances entrusted her care to John and Ethel Ross, who began promoting her as a child actress. Her new managers changed her name to Patty, piggybacking on the success of child star Patty McCormack.

“Anna Marie is dead, you are Patty now,” pronounced Ethel.

In the late 1950s, Patty Duke made her first appearance in the soap opera “The Brighter Day” and later won $32,000 in the game show “The $64,000 Question.” In 1961, Duke testified before a Congressional panel when it was revealed that the show was rigged. She landed her first starring role in the Broadway play “The Miracle Worker,” appearing as Helen Keller alongside acting great Anne Bancroft. The play was made into a film in 1962 and Duke won the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

The teenage star landed her own show in 1963 with the debut of “The Patty Duke Show.” Duke played both main characters, appearing alternatively as the mischievous Patty Lane as well as her prudish, prim and proper Scottish cousin Cathy Lane. The Queens native was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance.

In spite of her fame and on-screen success, Patty’s teenage years were far from happy. She described herself as a virtual captive of the Rosses, who only doled out a small amount of her acting earnings for her to survive. John and Ethel gave her alcohol and prescription drugs when she was 13, and she soon developed substance abuse problems. Duke left the couple when she was 18 and found that they had wasted most of her money.

Newly independent, she broke free of her wholesome, child star image with the 1967 hit “Valley of the Dolls.” Duke garnered mixed reviews with her over-the-top portrayal of alcohol and drug-addicted singer Neely O’Hara. Two years later, the actress shared the spotlight with another young up-and-coming actor, Al Pacino, in the comedy “Me, Natalie.” Although the film was a box office flop, Duke earned the Golden Globe for best actress for her role.

Since the mid-1970s, Duke’s primary medium has been television. She received her second Emmy for the miniseries “Captains and the Kings” in 1977 and another for the 1979 TV version of “The Miracle Worker,” this time appearing as Annie Sullivan. In 1985, Duke made a splash as the first female president of the United States in the series “Hail to the Chief.” She was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1985, and served for the next three years.

In recent years, Duke has taken a step back from her acting career, making occasional television and stage appearances. She spoke about her battle with bipolar disorder on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2007 and has become a mental health advocate since going public with her struggle. She has helped remove the stigma from this disorder through her lobbying and advocacy work.

This daughter of Queens has gone full circle from child star to award-winning actress, mother and activist whose roles have mirrored the beauty and complexity of her own story.

For more information, call 718-278-0700 or visit

Posted 1:07 am, December 8, 2011
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