While The Patty Duke show only ran for three years (1963-66), its popularity and contributions to the world went far beyond that. And with Duke herself passing away not too long ago, it made sense to take a look back at some facts about the show, an early scandal, and we’ll check in on the cast as well. You won’t believe which of the show’s stars caused its early cancellation!
Duke Was Involved In Quiz Show Scandals
Before Patty Duke even became a household name or got her own show, she was embroiled in a scandal…one that no one knew about until much later. The huge quiz show scandals of the 1950s shook the entertainment world and Duke was right in the middle of it. As a 12-year-old actress, she won thousands and thousands of dollars on The $64,000 Question game show. But as it turned out, she was coached by producers (as many other winners were), which she finally admitted to years later when she was forced to testify to Congress.
The Patty Duke Show Propelled Her To Stardom
If you couldn’t tell by the name of the show, Patty Duke was the biggest star on the show by a mile. While the others were good actors, there is no doubting she was the star and that this show was made to turn her into a bigger celebrity than he already was. Little did she know at this early point that great successes come big problems, and she ended up with plenty of them later in life.
She Won The Academy Award At 16
How did she get to be the lucky one with a big show in her name? The year before getting the show, Duke was on top of the world after winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Miracle Worker. The film tells the story of Helen Keller and her blind teacher, Anne Sullivan.
Winning an Academy Award was quite a personal accomplishment too, as she’d had a very rough childhood. From the age of eight she was raised by her managers, a married couple who abused her. John and Ethel Ross plied the young girl with drugs and alcohol, and they and even forced her to change her name to “Patty” (she was born “Anna”) to emulate another successful child star of the day, Patty McCormack.
Knowing how much Duke had to overcome to achieve her success makes it even more shocking how the show ended! We’ll learn more about that later.
She Was The Youngest Academy Award In History
But while winning the award was amazing, that probably wasn’t enough to get her own show. What likely helped land the role even more than winning the award was claiming the victory at just 16 years old! That’s a young age for winning any Oscar, especially in the role of Best Supporting Actress. The win turned her into a star and was more than enough to headline her own show.
Little did anyone know at the time, but Patty had a secret mental illness that heavily influenced the show’s storyline.
When a show is created and produced, it usually has a number of different people for most of the behind the scenes roles. A show has producers, writers, directors, and of course those who were responsible for creating it. But on this show, the two men who created the show, William Asher and Sidney Sheldon, were also the ones who wrote most of the episodes.
Sheldon had noticed that Patty often had erratic mood swings — to the point that she almost had dual personalities — and the concept of two “identical cousins” (both played by Patty) was born from this observation. It wasn’t until later in life that Duke was diagnosed as bipolar.
Two Distinct Personalities
The dual personalities that Patty played on her show were Catherine “Cathy” Lane, who was a proper Scottish girl, and Patricia “Patty” Lane, who was a typical and boisterous American teenager. Cathy generally behaved herself, while Patty tended to get herself into trouble. Audiences loved this gimmick.
The Show Challenged the Special Effects Capabilities of Its Time
Because of the fact that she played two different characters that often appeared on screen at the same time as one another, some special effects were needed. They utilized the split screen effect so both could appear on screen at the same time, despite being acted by Patty at two different times (obviously).
Patty Duke Got Mentions in a Few Beastie Boys Songs
If you are a fan of the Beastie Boys’ music, you know they are fans of the TV show. This is because of the fact that dozens of TV references find their way into certain songs. And, of course, The Patty Duke Show even found its way into two of their songs (“Shake Your Rump” and “Get it Together.”)
The Show Had a Large Number of World Famous Guest Stars
While the original cast did a great job with the show, the show’s success and notoriety were helped out by the large number of famous special guest stars it featured. Some of the big names that appeared on the show were Sammy Davis Jr., Jimmy Dean, James Brolin, Frankie Avalon and Frank Sinatra Jr., among others.
While Most Shows Had Moved to LA, This Show Stayed in NY
The trend around the time when this show was created was to shoot in LA, despite most shows being in NY for years. But as most shows made the move west, this series and a few others stayed east. But look at the next few entries for the reason why it stayed in its home city during its entire run.
William Schallert Became The SAG President
One of the other biggest stars in the cast other than Duke was William Schallert, who played Martin Lane. But in addition to this TV role, he had roles in a large number of movies and was active in the movie business. Eventually, Schallert became the Screen Actors Guild president from 1979 to 1981 and still remained very active in SAG projects after his tenure drew to a close.
The Theme Song Was Made By The Same People Who Created The Flintstones Theme
While you probably don’t know The Skip-Jacks (a musical group from the 1950s and 1960s), you definitely know a few of their songs. Not only did they create the theme song for The Patty Duke Show, they were also behind the super catchy theme to The Flintstones. They definitely had a knack for creating truly iconic TV show theme songs.
Rita Walker Went On To Be A Soap Star
In some scenes, Duke needed a body double, and that was a role taken on by Rita Walker. But later in life, Walker went on to have an acting career of her own. Walker would eventually appear in an important role on As the World Turns, a role she maintained from 1970 to 1981.
Eddie Applegate Took Up Painting After His Show Business Career Ended
Another actor on the show was Eddie Applegate, who played Patty Lane’s boyfriend. Throughout his career, he appeared in a number of shows as a single episode character and after retiring from show business, he took an interest in painting and became the Vice President of the San Fernando Valley Art Club.
Duke Went Public With Her Mental Illness
During the mid 20th century, mental health was something that almost never got talked about. There was a huge stigma attached to people who had these illnesses. But in her 1987 autobiography, Duke revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982. This made her one of the first stars to speak about their experience with mental health issues.
She Was An Advocate For Mental Health Awareness Later In Life
Not only did she speak out about her experiences with mental illness, she became an activist and advocate for a number of different mental health causes. She even lobbied for congress to increase funding for research and treatment of mental illnesses, which were still a fairly touchy subject at this time.
Duke Eventually Became a Singer
Apparently being a TV actor and movie star wasn’t enough for Duke, as she tried her hand at being a singer. And as it turned out, it was a pretty good idea. She put out a few albums, had a few singles and even had two top 40 hits and one that fell into the top 10.
Duke Ended Up Getting Married Four Times
Despite most fans knowing her as a teenage actress and star, Duke eventually grew up and lived a hectic adult life on the romance front. Sadly, she didn’t have the best luck with love. She was married a total of four times including a marriage that lasted under a year and her first marriage occurring when she was only 19.
The Show Was Canceled When It Had Good Ratings
Many people have wondered why a show with a mega star like Duke and really good Nielsen ratings got canceled after only a few years. It didn’t make any sense as Duke was only 18 and the show was likely going to get increasingly better over time. But as it turned out, it was actually canceled because Duke wasn’t willing to relocate to Los Angeles.
Duke Herself Was The Main Reason It Was Canceled
The reason ABC originally wanted to keep the show in NY was because of their lax child labor laws, allowing her to work longer hours. But once she turned 18 in the middle of the 1964-65 season, the show’s producers finally wanted to make the move to LA, but Duke declined as she didn’t want to travel across the country for work. It was also rumored that the production studio did not want to comply with ABC’s request that the show start to film in color, which became the final nail in the coffin of the show.