Hard to countenance
When I was 12 Matty Cohn’s mother took Matty and me to see The Miracle Worker on Broadway.
I was electrified by the performance of Patty Duke.
Backstage and off-screen her reality was heartbreaking.
Duke was born at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan. the youngest of three children of Frances Margaret (née McMahon), a cashier, and John Patrick Duke, a handyman and cab driver. She was raised in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens, where her brother Raymond, her sister Carol, and she experienced a difficult childhood. Their father was an alcoholic, and their mother suffered from clinical depression and was prone to violence. When Duke was six, her mother forced her father to leave the family home. When Duke was eight, her care was turned over to talent managers John and Ethel Ross, who after promoting Patty’s brother, were looking for a girl to add to their stable of child actors.
The Rosses’ methods of managing Duke’s career were often unscrupulous and exploitative. They consistently billed Duke as being two years younger than she actually was and padded her resume with false credits. They gave her alcohol and prescription drugs, took unreasonably high fees from her earnings, and made sexual advances to her. She never saw her father and saw her mother only when she visited to do the Rosses’ laundry. In addition, the Rosses made Duke change her name. “Anna Marie is dead,” they said. “You’re Patty now.” They hoped that Patty Duke would duplicate the success of Patty McCormack.
[and yet, people can be so good … Annie Sullivan as an exemplary figure]