Oscar-Winning Actress Patty Duke Dead At Age 69

Actress Patty Duke, who won a best supporting actress Oscar at age 16 for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and starred in her own comedy series during the 1960s, has died at age 69, her family announced Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The entertainer was a noted film, stage and television performer who also won three Emmys and was an important advocate for mental health awareness. She was also president of the Screen Actors Guild through a tempestuous time in the 1980s.

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Patty Duke as Helen Keller, with Anne Bancroft, in the 1962 film "The Miracle Worker"  (Getty)

"This morning, our beloved wife, mother, matriarch and the exquisite humanitarian and champion of mental health, Anna Patty Duke, closed her eyes, quieted her pain ascended to a beautiful place," read a statement from her family.

"We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and throughout her life."

She died from sepsis resulting from a ruptured intestine, her managers said.

Patty Duke, 16, with her Oscar at after party in 1963.

Celebrity condolences poured in on social media from William Shatner,  Patricia Heaton, Marlee Matlin, Margaret Cho and singer Rose McGowan.

Duke was the youngest person at the time to star in her own television series, "The Patty Duke Show," in which she played identical cousins. The program ran from 1963 to 1965 and Duke was nominated for an Emmy for playing dual starring roles.

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Patty Duke played dual roles in "The Patty Duke Show," a comedy series about identical cousins. (Getty)

She first played the deaf, blind and mute Keller in 1959 on Broadway when she was just 13. To prepare, she rehearsed with a blindfold for nearly a year. In the film, she and Anne Bancroft, who played her teacher, wore padding under the clothes for a violent scene in which the instructor and Keller physically battle each other at a dining room table.

Bancroft took home an Oscar for Best Leading Actress in that film.

She was nine when she got her first acting job as a film extra. In 1957, she appeared on "Kraft Theater" and continued working through the "Golden Age" in television.

She publicly admitted to being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, after years of battling the mental illness. She also acknowledged being miserable as teen-age star and turning to alcohol and prescription drugs. She accused her managers at the time of squandering her earnings and sexually abusing her.

Her survivors include sons Sean Astin and Mackenzie Astin. She was married to The Addams Family star John Astin from 1972 to 1985, and had three other husbands. She is also survived by husband Michael Pearce and their son, Kevin Pearce. 

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