Anna Marie Patty Duke Pearce (all of those names meant something to her) died last week at age 69, and took another little piece of boomer hearts with her. Duke went from Oscar-winning child actress (The Miracle Worker) to Emmy-winning (three of them) adult actress to passionate president of the Screen Actors Guild, leading at least a couple of SAG strikes. She also revealed a childhood of abuse by pushy managers who became de facto parents and a battle with mental illness she bravely shared in an unvarnished, barebulb autobiography, Call Me Anna.
Duke even resigned the SAG presidency to make a TV movie based on the book and star in it herself. Talk about facing your demons and owning them. Her bipolar disorder could have cast a pall on her dual role of polar opposite “twin” cousins Patty and Cathy Lane on The Patty Duke Show. But it hasn’t. She was too good an actress, and she remains the embodiment of a certain frenetic obliviousness of the teen years.
It’s been a tough couple of weeks for SAG-AFTRA following the death March 23 of Ken Howard, another strong figure on stage and screen and a force in melding the unions as their first president. Howard was an iconic TV father figure courtesy of racially groundbreaking series The White Shadow.
They will both be missed.
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