Classic Movie Review: Thanks, Patty Duke

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Classic Movie Review by Ellen Bunton

(and her eager assistant, Meatball)


A Regular Monthly Feature

  The first Wednesday of the month.

Wednesday April 6 2016


Anna Marie Duke, but we knew her as Patty Duke. She was born on Dec.14, 1946 in Queens, NY. Coming from an unstable home of alcoholism and mental illness, as well as her managers later being her guardian, certainly gave her a lot to draw from in becoming an actress, and she didn’t waste any time starting out as a child playing on Broadway with Anne Bancroft in “The Miracle Worker”. She even had her name above the title later on in the run.

When the movie was produced, she and Anne Bancroft continued their roles as the young Helen Keller and the teacher, Annie Sullivan, that would change Helens life. Patty Duke won an Oscar in 1963 for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the ” The Miracle Worker”, and she would later win an Emmy in 1980 for the same story, yet Patty, all grown up, played the teacher role.

I remember that scene in the 1962 film when Patty, as Helen, first understood the word “water”, as Anne Bancroft, her teacher had been trying to communicate to her at the outside water pump. It is surely one of the most dramatic and uplifting scenes that I have ever seen on film.

Later, Patty would have her own television show, ” The Patty Duke Show” that ran from 1963-1966.


She also created a very memorable role in the “The Valley of the Dolls” in 1967 playing the boozing pill popping loud mouth Neely O’Hara in an all star cast.




However her most important work may have been outside of the Hollywood Studios where she spoke on behalf of the many sufferers of Bipolar.ct-patty-duke-mental-illness-oscar-academy-award-edit-0401-jm-20160331


She was the first actress to speak candidly of her Bipolar disorder and was interviewed on the Today show by Kati Couric. She also spoke in front of Congress and worked with the National Alliance on Mental Health for decades.

Patty Duke died recently at the age of 69. When someone dies it’s often asked how they touched the hearts of others? It’s clear she touched the hearts of her children and family, but it’s safe to say she reached countless others through her help with mental illness issues or through a wonderful performance on screen. I believe I speak for many when I say “thank you”.

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4 Responses to "Classic Movie Review: Thanks, Patty Duke"
  1. A fitting homage to an incredible actress who took you there and kept you there.
    Thanks, Dean, for the touching time-travel.

  2. Dean Robertson says:

    Thanks, Danielle, for the compliment, but I can’t take credit. These monthly classic movie blogs are the work of my good friend, Ellen Bunton.

  3. Alison Daniels says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this lovely tribute, Ellen. I had read Patty Duke’s autobiography and until then had never had a clue about the troubles in her childhood and young adult life. Who would have thought that the charming bubbly teenager who played cousins, identical cousins, on the Patty Duke Show had anything but a “normal’ life. She was a gifted actress, always very “accessible” and natural. And she accomplished a lot in her life. I think I also read she was president of the Screen Actor’s Guild for many years so she had leadership qualities that were respected by her peers. I think it’s very sad how many child stars were subject to abuse in their childhoods, whether physical or financial. But she overcame all that and developed a strong sense of self despite it.

  4. Kat Varn says:

    I feel as if I grew up with Patty. She felt like an older sister to me. What a beautiful tribute to a strong woman that didn’t abuse her celebrity status.

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