1960s
  Anna's motion picture career reaches new heights...

 

 

The Miracle Worker (1962)

 

 

Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke, Victor Jory, Inga Swenson and Andrew Prine.

 

Magnificent, wonderful, beautiful, breathtaking, superb, exquisite, eloquent, maddening - so many words

can be used to describe to this classic among classics.

 

In 1957, William Gibson wrote a script for a live television show about the early relationship between

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. The production starred Patty McCormick and Theresa Wright,

respectively. Soon after the successful television airing, director Arthur Penn was interested in making the

story a Broadway play and hired two relative unknowns: Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft as the student and

the teacher. Their performances amazed New York theater audiences for two years, before being made

into a motion picture with Duke and Bancroft recreating their stage roles.

 

Bancroft beautifully demonstrates the determination and willpower Annie Sullivan had in making young

Keller understand life and to understand it through the mind of a girl, not a wild beast.

 

Anna, as Helen Keller, gives a performance that can never be matched no matter how many remakes and

theater productions shall appear. The lunch table scene, where her and Bancroft are battling each other,

and the ending water pump scene alone assure that she will always be Helen Keller. She simply makes the

audience believe that she is blind and deaf and not just some kid actress faking her way through it. And at

the end of the film, where Helen finally realizes the connection between the name for “water” and the

actual object, the viewer feels as if he or she is also learning this for the very first time. That’s how

powerful it is.

 

If any flaws should be pointed out in this picture, it should be the too-stagy performances of Victory Jory and Inga Swenson as Helen’s parents. They don’t seem to know that there are differences between acting in a stage version of something and shooting it on film. Ironically, they weren’t even in the Broadway play.

Those parts were played by Torin Thatcher and Patricia Neil.

 

Nothing can take the viewers eyes away from Ms. Duke and Ms. Bancroft, however. They make the

picture, (and have the Oscars to prove it) along with the help of some fine direction from Arthur Penn

and Gibson’s screenplay. Special notice should also be given to Lawrence Rosenthall for his haunting score.

-Bill Jankowski, The Official Patty Duke Webpage. **** (Video, DVD)

 

Excellent work, with Arthur Penn repeating his Broadway triumph directing Duke and Bancroft, the two

stage leads. This remarkable story of Helen Keller began as a book, then became a William Gibson play that premiered on Broadway in 1959. When the time came to make the film, Penn, Gibson, and producer Coe insisted that Bancroft and Duke be retained, with resulting Oscars for both stars. Duke had riveted

Broadway audiences with the role as Keller, and, at age 16, became the youngest recipient of the Best

Supporting Actress Oscar. (In 1973, Tatum O'Neal eclipsed her by winning the award at age 10 for

PAPER MOON.)

 

THE MIRACLE WORKER is a powerful picture, even as the credits roll. Keller (Duke) is groping, lost and angry in her silent world when Annie Sullivan (Bancroft) arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, on a mission to teach the girl how to communicate through sign language. The task seems impossible, since Helen is blind as well as deaf. Annie, we learn, was blind at birth and still must wear very thick glasses in order to see images. Her own life had been brutalized by many years in institutions and the loss of the one person she cared about, a crippled brother who died young. Bancroft senses that the only way she can make any

progress with Duke is to separate the child from her doting mother, Swenson, and her overbearing

father, Jory.

 

The film is a harrowing, painfully honest, sometimes violent journey, astonishingly acted and rendered.

Penn and cinematographer Caparros use short dissolves to great advantage, and Rosenthal's score heightens

every nuance of the drama. The interiors were shot in New York and the exteriors in New Jersey, which

doubled for Alabama. The eight-minute sequence featuring a physical fight between Bancroft and Duke as

the teacher attempts to teach the pupil some manners stands as one of the most electrifying and honest ever committed to film.

-Cinebooks. **** 1/2 (out of 5)

 

“Enthralling, humorous [and] touching. A beautiful movie!”

-The Hollywood Reporter

 

“Quite possibly the most moving double performance ever recorded on film”

-Time

 

“Ennobling and uplifting”

-Variety

 

“One of the finest works of art in the history of motion pictures”

-Boxoffice

 

Billie (1965)

 

 

Patty Duke, Jim Backus, Warren Berlinger, Jane Greer, Ted Bessell, and Dick Sargent.

 

Light and airy comedy about a teenage girl who wants to join the boy’s track team, but sees disapproval

from some of her family and friends who don’t see her as being “equal” to boys. When she finally does

make the track team, because of her mighty speed, she realizes she is a “lonely little in-between” who

is caught between her love for boys and sports.

 

Anna plays this role well, especially considering it was only a 15 day shoot and she looks ridiculous with

her hair styled and dyed that color. This 1965 vehicle has something important to say about the equality,

or lack thereof, between the two sexes. Pleasant, but predicable story, with Jim Backus scoring big points

as Anna’s father, who’s daughter’s involvement with male sports might stop him from being elected mayor of the town.

 

Thanks to Anna we believe in the character Billie, right up until the phony ending, which is a huge

disappointment to the rest of the picture.

 

Note: Anna sung three songs in this film, “Lonely Little In-between,” “Funny Little Butterflies” and

“A Girl is a Girl”. Billie was released under Chrislaw-Patty Duke Productions and was one of the first films

to be bought by a television network.

-Bill Jankowski, Official Patty Duke Webpage. ** 1/2 (Video)

 

Patty Duke is a tomboy high-school track star who outperforms all of the boys on the Harding High School

team, including her macho boy friend (Warren Berlinger). All of this causes big problems for her politically ambitious father (Jim Backus) who is running for mayor on an unashamedly male chauvinist platform. BILLIE is a technically competent film, and Duke's portrayal of a capable athlete and independent person is ahead of its time (although she eventually does demonstrate that she "knows her place"). Ultimately, however, the film is undone by its predictable and all-too-easily resolved situations.

-Cinebooks. **

 

The Daydreamer (1966)

 

Paul O’Keefe, Jack Gilford and Margaret Hamilton.

 

Voices: Patty Duke, Hayley Mills, Tallulah Bankhead, Victor Borge, Burl Ives, Terry Thomas

 

Part live-action, part animated tale of Hans Christian Anderson, as a young boy who dreams of the

characters that would one day make him world famous.

 

Anna’s Thumbelina is adorable and a perfect companion for Chris. She guides him across the stream

with her on a lilly pad, once she shows him how to shrink down to her size. Chris’s lack of devotion to

Thumbelina, however, shows that he is not perfect, but as equally flawed as most children his age.

Enjoyable and a good choice to watch with the whole family. Note: Paul O’Keefe, who plays Chris, also

played Anna’s brother Ross on The Patty Duke Show from 1963-66.

-Bill Jankowski, The Official Patty Duke Webpage. *** (Video)

 

Live action combined with the Animagic process (stop-motion puppets) created this fantasy in which a young Hans Christian Andersen (Paul O'Keefe) daydreams some of his best fables. Nice songs and good voice talents for the animated characters, all presented with style and imagination, make this a memorable

outing for children.

-Cinebooks. ***

 

Valley of the Dolls (1967)

 

 

Patty Duke, Susan Hayward, Sharon Tate, Barbara Parkins, Paul Burke, Lee Grant, Richard Dreyfuss,

George Jessel, Jacqueline Susann.

 

I have wanted to write a review for this movie ever since I first saw it when I was twelve years old and

now at the age of twenty-two I am finally getting to do it.

 

The first thing I want to say above all, and I want to scream this from every roof top from her to India that

this movie wouldn’t be the fun masterpiece that it is without one person: Patty Duke.

 

Anna has been lambasted over the past thirty-five years for her performance in VOTD, from mostly the

professional critics. They thought “How could an actress who just five years earlier won an Oscar turn in

such a horrid performance?” I beg to differ. Hands down, she is the best thing in this otherwise boring

Hollywood melodrama.

 

Personally, I sleep through Barbara Parkins’ Anne Wells, the supossed heroine of the piece. Wells moves

from her cushy New England hometown in the beginning to start a whole new life in the tougher world

known as New York. In her years in New York she goes from secretary for a successful show biz attorney to television model for the hottest perfume company in town.

 

Soon after arriving in New York she meets and befriends two struggling starlets: Neely O’Hara and

Jennifer North. O’Hara (played by Anna) seems to be the only one of the two with any talent: as a singer,

dancer and actress. Her career seems to blossom overnight due to one appearance on a telethon. C’Mon,

careers are not made over night while singing a song on a telethon. The filmmakers should have dealt more with the struggled and tribulations Neely went through to get to the top, rather than the

BOOM-BOOM-BOOM affect of having her become famous over night.

 

Sharon Tate does well in her brief scenes as the doomed sexpot Jennifer North and Susan Hayward gives a

rare bad performance as Broadway legend Helen Lawson, who is fighting to hold on to her career, despite

her advancing age.

 

Now, since this is a website on Anna, its time to get back to her. Sure she has some ridiculous dialogue

(“Boobies! Boobies! Boobies! Nothing but Boobies! Who needs ‘em? I did great without ‘em! is just one

Shakespearean-like line she is forced to mutter) but her Neely is ultimately the most interesting and

complex character in the entire piece. The viewer witnesses her transformation from good girl to bad girl

and how she simply can’t handle the stardom that is dealt to her with show business.

 

Neely’s ups and downs are supossed to be tragic, but thanks to bad lines and directing (and who did the

makeup in this? Even though the story is supossed to take place over twenty years of time everyone looks

exactly the same in the end as they did in the beginning!) they are simply funny and give the audience

something to do since the intended dramatics are so boring: Laugh. And no one is funnier than

Neely O’Hara.

 

Anna’s critics thought her performance as Neely was bad and way over-the-top, but with lines like the

infamous Boobies one and “Ted Casablanca is not a fag! And I’m the dame who can prove it.” no actor or

actress could not deliver these lines without being over-the-top. It simply isn’t possible.

 

Was screen legend Bette Davis subdued when she cackled and told Joan Crawford “But ya are Blanche!

Ya are in that chair!” in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Of course not, and neither is Anna in VOTD.

Its simply impossible whether you have Mary Pickford play the role, Patty Duke, or even Brittany Spears.

 

The funny, sarcastic bite that Neely and Anna give to Valley of the Dolls helps make it leap from

“The Worst Worst Movie Ever Made” to what CO-star Lee Grant calls “The Best Worst Movie Ever Made”.

 

When someone sits down and watches Valley of the Dolls they’ll skip everything else and head right to the

desert of the film, and that’s our Anna Patty Duke. Try not to watch the pool and wig scenes. Just try.

I dare you!

-Bill Jankowski, The Official Patty Duke Webpage. ** 1/2 (Video)

 

As an ardent admirer of Patty Duke since 1962 and her incredible performance in

THE MIRACLE WORKER, then following her likable hi-jinks on the wholesome PATTY DUKE SHOW,

where she "reflected" my adolescent years, I was one of millions of devoted fans who looked eagerly for her continued success when it was announced she'd play Neely O'Hara in the filmed version of Jackie Susann’s blockbuster, steamy novel.


The Hollywood hoopla that surrounded that production - while it was still being made - was totally

"over the top" in its pre-marketing and advance "Oscar buzz" ... all of which I "bought into," being a naive, easily influenced, 15-year old, pulling to see her favorite star make film headlines again as the terrific, young actress she was already as.


Now, everyone knows, the film itself was so incredibly "over the top" and incompetent in its efforts that it received possibly the WORST reviews ever given to a much ballyhoo'd movie. On top of that, Ms. Duke was, in my opinion, the star of the ill-written/ill-directed Valley of the Dolls, and resultantly, took most of the brunt of the blasting from the critics and the public.

I was personally devastated by the excruciating artistic failure my favorite actress endured and was equally

fearful that this ridiculously dumb piece of filmmaking would bring an end to her (until-then) astonishing

career.


It darn near did.

I can't tell you how many times, or how many people, I had to fend off in defense of my allegiance to

Patty Duke and my belief in her as a actress, because of the film fiasco which has come to be known as

VALLEY OF THE DULLS.


But on second thought (not to be confused with Seconal thoughts!)... some 30+ years after its release,

DOLLS emerges as the BEST WORST MOVIE ever made. As such, its place in film history is enshrined; it epitomizes (perhaps DEFINES) the pop culture term: "camp classic."

Thankfully, Patty Duke ("Call Her Anna" now), recovered nicely - in many ways beyond the artistic sense

- and redeemed herself by proving her talents - racking up an impressive body of award-winning roles and

proving that one big-bomb (I mean, BIG) does not mean the ruin of a career. As reported now, Ms. Duke

laughs, along with the rest of us, at the cinema-ineptitude of VOD.



So, on second thought I've raised my IMBD rating of this film to a "10." First, because of its inarguable place in the annals of terrible movie-making. For that, it rates a "10" because it stands alone atop the Mt. Everest camp-genre. (As the film says, it's a lonely, empty climb!) But mostly because, for sheer laughs, it's unbeatable. As is its most celebrated survivor, Patty Duke.

-Kathleen Galloway, The Official Patty Duke Webpage.

 

Scattered unintentional laughs do not compensate for terribly written, acted, and directed adaptation of

Jacqueline Susann novel about three young women in show biz. Author Susann has a bit role as a reporter.

Look for Richard Dreyfuss in a quick backstage bit. Remade as a TV movie in 1981.

-Leonard Maltin BOMB (One Star)

 

Me, Natalie (1969)

 

 

 Patty Duke, James Farentino, Martin Balsam, Nancy Marchand, Elsa Lanchester, Salome Jens, Al Pacino.

 

One of my personal favorites. The sweet, but not saccharine, tale of a homely Jewish teenaged girl growing up in Brooklyn is bar none one of Anna’s best performances. Everyone from time to time has felt ugly, unappreciated and not loved, and through Anna’s Natalie Miller the viewer (at least this one) is reminded of their own painful moments in high school and feeling inadequate in the world of dating. But Natalie does something that most of us are too cowardly to do: she fights back at the system and makes a new life for herself when she moves to Greenwich Village to find out who she really is. We laugh, cry and feel with Natalie in a way we probably couldn’t do if played by another actress.

 

When Natalie at last finds what she thinks is true love a secret that emerges could be a major blow to her

ego, which is slowly building, but she manages to take this news head on.

 

Anna received a Golden Globe, and should have been nominated for an Oscar, for her riveting portrayal of

Natalie Miller. Nancy Marchand (later of Lou Grant and The Sopranos fame) is almost equally as effective as her doting mother.

 

Me, Natalie is a perfect example as to what independent film making should be: Heavy on story and

characterization and light on the gimmicky special effects.

 

Vaguely known or seen today, except as Al Pacino’s film debut, this one deserves a video and DVD

release as well as some showings on cable.

 

With the risk of sounding cliched, its just.....special.

-Bill Jankowski, The Official Patty Duke Webpage. ****

 

Soap opera-ish tale about unattractive NYC girl struggling to find herself gets tremendous boost by Duke’s

great performance; otherwise film wavers uncomfortably between comedy and drama.

Pacino’s feature debut.

-Leonard Maltin ** 1/2

 

A Lovable ugly duckling tale. A sheltered plain Jane yearn to become a butterfly as she tries her wings out

in Greenwich Village.

-Steven H. Scheuer. ***

 

My Sweet Charlie (TV 1969)

 

 

Patty Duke, Al Freeman Jr., Ford Rainey.

 

Granted, I am biased in that I have been a long-time fan of Ms. Duke's, dating back to 1962. But I am

objective enough in my observations as a student of film, and a video producer myself, to realize - and

highly recommend - the excellence of this splendid television production, adapted from the novel by

David Westheimer.



The writing, acting, direction and production values are quite above-norm. Filmed entirely on location in

Texas, the film captures the realistic flavor of the novel, which focused on the conflict naturally evolving

between an uneducated, white, pregnant teenager and a black Northern attorney, drawn fatefully together

by circumstances and differing forms of social prejudice.



The characters, as portrayed by Ms. Duke and Mr. Freeman, emerge as possibly one of the finest

two-character studies ever produced for television.



Ms. Duke won her first Emmy award (1970) for her exceptional work in this production. Producers

Levinson & Link (who were then novices), also received an Emmy for their script, as did Ed Abroms for

editing. Director Lamont Johnson was awarded the coveted DGA for Best TV Director. In total, the film

received 8 Emmy nominations.



This was not only a critically acclaimed production; CHARLIE received a 31.7 rating and 48 Nielsen share.

It represents a "breakthrough" effort in the TV industry arena. Due to its unprecedented success, writers

and producers were encouraged to develop other serious-subject, controversial projects for the networks,

vs. Hollywood. CHARLIE laid the groundwork for other TV productions, like ROOTS,

THE EXECUTION OF PRIVATE SLOVIK, and many more above-par TV productions, to occur.



Although now 30+ years old, the film stands as an important work that honestly reflected our society's

(still-existent) racial tensions and misunderstandings. It remains a brilliant hallmark in the evolution of

better television fare.

-Kathleen Galloway, The Official Patty Duke Webpage. (Video)

 

White unwed mother and black N.Y.C lawyer are thrown together in abandoned house in rural Texas.

Good adaptation of David Westhmeir novel, with excellent performances; believable and moving. A

television landmark by Richard Levinson and William Link; this earned theatrical showings after

debut on TV.

-Leonard Maltin. Above Average.

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