Having achieved a long and thriving profession in show business, one might think actress Patty Duke has earned the right to sit back and relax her performing pace at this point. Not this feisty Academy Award-winner, who recently talked with TheSavvyGal.com about her career and achievements, and her latest project: starring in the upcoming Hallmark Channel Original Movie “Love Finds a Home.”
Duke’s role in the upcoming “Love Finds a Home,” casts her as a frontier doctor in headstrong resistance with an opinionated nursemaid. Set in the Old West, the film also stars Haylie Duff, Sarah Jones and Jordan Bridges. “Love Finds a Home” is the eighth film based on the popular “Love Comes Softly” series of novels by renowned author Janette Oke.
Duke snickered at the idea that just because her primary home is now in Idaho, some of her peers in Hollywood might think she’s chosen to retire. “I’m so proud that I’ve been able to make it now into my sixth decade of work because for me, being out of work is murder,” she said.
Adding to the list of current projects, Duke recently began a stint in the San Francisco stage production of “WICKED,” playing Madame Morrible. “I was a little girl with a big imagination … imagine how I felt when I got to do something about the Wizard of Oz!”
Her spirited performance in “Love Finds a Home,” will assure longtime Patty Duke fans that her zeal as an actress is still fierce. “I have a tremendous passion for acting, which I balance with another passion I have: helping people cope with bipolar disease,” she said, referring to her 1982 diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, a condition that haunted her for a lifetime. She began taking Lithium to keep her symptoms under control and, in 1987, penned her best-selling autobiography, “Call Me Anna.” Five years later, she and medical reporter Gloria Hochman co-authored “A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness.”
“For the past 25 of the 27 years I’ve been diagnosed, I have been proactively telling other people who might be experiencing the same thing that they too, can get past the illness and live a better life,” Duke said. Her speaking engagements target people who are diagnosed like her, but who refuse to take their medicine. “I present the topic from the point of view of a patient who is living with the disease and has learned to manage it,” she said. “And my drive to help others is stronger than my own anxiety. Having a role in helping to make a difference has been so satisfying.”
Duke became a Broadway (and acting) phenomenon when, at the age of 14, she received the Theater World Award as Most Promising Newcomer for her performance as Helen Keller in the Tony Award-winning play “The Miracle Worker.” She also starred in the film version at age 16, and won a Golden Globe Award as the Most Promising Newcomer, as well as the Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress, hoisting her as the youngest person to win the award at that time.
Duke’s Emmy credits underscore her acting genius. “The Patty Duke Show,” which was every young woman’s television obsession at the time it aired, earned Duke her first Emmy Award nomination. She was also nominated for her role in “Having Babies,” “A Family Upside Down,” “Girl on the Edge of Town,” “The Women’s Room,” “George Washington” and “Touched By an Angel.” She is the winner of three Emmy Awards for her roles in “My Sweet Charlie,” “Captains and The Kings” and “The Miracle Worker,” in which she played the role of Annie Sullivan. Among Duke’s additional feature film credits are “Billie,” “Valley of the Dolls,” “Me, Natalie,” “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Harvest of Fire.” In addition to her acting accomplishments, she is the third woman in history to have been elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.
With a long list of notable credits notwithstanding, Patty Duke still dons a child-like enthusiasm about her work: “I feel like the cat that swallowed the canary!”
The Hallmark Channel Original Movie “Love Finds a Home,” premieres on Saturday, April 11 (9/8c), on the Hallmark Channel.