John and Ethel Ross, Patty Duke’s managers, began raising her when she was seven years old. Yet, they controlled most of her life until Duke reached 18. With her fourth marriage, Duke became a mother to three sons, all of whom have spoken publicly about their mother’s struggle with bipolar illness. Sean is the only one of her boys who has the affection and support of each of his four fathers.
Patty Duke became famous as a child actress on television, where she portrayed herself as having a pure attitude and a wonderful personality. Yet, behind the scenes, her life was quite different from what was presented on the program.
Duke went through multiple tumultuous relationships, a tragic childhood, substance and alcohol misuse, and uncontrolled waves of emotion before she discovered that she had a mental condition and began receiving treatment for it.
Anna Marie Duke was born in 1946 in the city of Elmhurst, New York, to parents who had a difficult marriage. Duke was the result of a turbulent family. Her father drank his way through life and abandoned the family when Duke was only six years old. Around this time, her mother was engaged in a never-ending struggle with depression.
Duke was successful in her job, but she did not have a secure place to call home. Duke’s ability was found when she was just seven years old by John and Ethel Ross, who managed her brother’s talent agency. Since then, they have worked tirelessly to mold her into one of the most talented actors of her era. In addition to that, they altered her name to Patty Duke.
Unfortuitously, Duke was brought up by the Rosses in a stiflingly restrictive atmosphere, with her parents closely monitoring and directing her every action. They started her drinking and getting high on prescription drugs while she was still young. According to The Times, not only did they take advantage of her, but they also stole one million dollars worth of revenue from Duke and put it in their own wallets.
They were also quite stringent in controlling her in the entertainment business, to the point that a condition in her contract specified that Duke’s increased height of two inches would cause expulsion from her production. If Duke did not comply with this requirement, she was fired from her production.
Despite her managers’ style of manipulating the show, Duke had genuine ability that flashed through and through. Her first important on-stage milestone was in 1959 at 12 years old. During that time period, Duke was honored with the Theatre World Award for “Most Promising Newcomer” for her performance on Broadway as Hellen Keller in the play “The Miracle Worker.”
She was the youngest person ever to receive an Academy Award for her performance in the film adaption of “The Miracle Worker” when she was only 16 years old. Her achievement helped her make history.