|Famous For: The Miracle Worker, Valley of the Dolls, The Patty Duke Show||Currently Known For: Actress, Author|
Currently Known For Actress, Author
A lot of us grow up wanting to be actors, hoping that someday we could be nominated for an Academy Award. Every now and then, you get an actor that zooms past the expected timeline for someone in that career path and lands an Oscar nod very early. That’s what happened for Patty Duke, who was just 16 years old when she played the role of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”. The role would establish a great career for Duke, as she became one of just a handful of teenagers to ever win an Academy Award for acting.
Duke would continue her success throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, appearing in films such as “Valley of the Dolls” and even had her own television show. By the time the 1980’s rolled around, Duke was already so well regarded in her profession that she was named the President of the Screen Actors Guild. Younger fans might not know much of Duke’s work in film, as she appeared in just two mainstream movies between 1986 and 2012. Television was Duke’s home for the most part, and her final appearances came in “Glee” and “Liv and Maddie”.
It wasn’t just acting that made Duke a Hollywood legend, though. She was also a successful recording artist, dating all the way back to 1965. It was then that Duke’s song “Don’t Just Stand There” reached the top 10 on the Billboard charts. Duke’s other successful songs include “Say Something Funny”, “Funny Little Butterflies” and “Whenever She Holds You”. All in all, Duke appeared on six different albums.
Duke had a very long and very celebrated career, though it sadly came to an end in March of 2016. Duke suffered from a ruptured intestine, and officially passed away on March 29 due to sepsis. With someone that has the long term popularity and notoriety that Duke had, it was a bit surprising that estimates only had her net worth between $5 million and $15 million at the time of her death.
Though that does seem tremendously low, you have to remember that being an actor was not quite as lucrative moneywise as it is today. With improved representation, actors are making more than ever, and taking a big cut of film profits. Duke had also not been acting for many years at the time of her death, instead focusing much of her time on being an advocate for mental health. A big reason for that was because Duke suffered from bipolar disorder, being diagnosed in the 1980’s.
Duke would set up her own charity for mental health awareness, and spent a lot of time working with the National Institute of Mental Health. Duke also made profits on a pair of books that touched on the topic, with “Call Me Anna” and “Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness”. There weren’t many celebrities that were willing to turn an eye to mental health problems, making Duke a pioneer in that regard.
Interestingly enough, Duke’s net worth started when she was just a child, well before fame. Duke had appeared on the hit game show “The $64,000 Question”, winning more than $30,000. For someone that wasn’t even a teenager at that point and considering inflation, that’s quite a way to put a base into your bank account. Of course, Duke would have plenty of success afterward to pad onto her net worth.
When Duke passed away at the age of 69, her millions of dollars had to go somewhere. Much of it went toward charity work, while she also had three children. Of Duke’s three children, two have gone on to the same line of work as their mother. Mackenzie Astin has appeared in films such as “Stranger Than Fiction” and “The Last Days of Disco”. The most notable, though, is Sean Astin.
Sean Astin actually had to undergo a DNA test to prove that Patty Duke’s third husband, John Astin, was his father. His original name was Sean Duke. Sean did not need much inheritance at all from his mother, as he has starred in very successful films that include “Rudy”, “Encino Man” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
So even though Duke’s net worth was only believed to be around $10 million at the time of her death, that’s pretty significant for someone that took such a long retirement from acting. Duke was a bit controversial for her time to some fans, but she has brought a lot of awareness to a cause that was largely ignored up until that point. The fact that she was able to donate so much money to that cause has helped tremendously along the way.