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Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke Study Guide & Plot Summary

Patty Duke
This Study Guide consists of approximately 47 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Call Me Anna.
This section contains 2,052 words
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Purchase our Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke Study Guide

Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke Summary & Study Guide Description

Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke by Patty Duke.

Plot Summary

Call Me Anna by Patty Duke and Kenneth Turan is the story of Patty Duke's life. Patty began her life as Anna Marie Duke, the youngest child of John Patrick and Frances Duke. Patty's brother, Ray became an actor and Patty followed suit, becoming one of the most beloved young actors of the sixties. However, Patty's carefree public life belied a mental disease that was characterized by often erratic and uncontrollable behavior, behavior that led to three failed marriages and multiple hospitalizations. Call Me Anna is not just a story of how one woman became a beloved actress, but a reference manual for other sufferers of undiagnosed manic depression.

Patty Duke became an actress in the late fifties at the age of eight. Patty did not choose this for herself, but was encouraged by her mother and her brother's managers, the Rosses. The Rosses took over Patty's life, changing the way she looked, the way she talked, even her age and her name. In time, as Patty's career took off, the Rosses took more and more control of her life until finally Patty was living with them on a full time basis. Patty's mother became something of a servant to the Rosses, playing babysitter to her own daughter on multiple commercial and movie sets, washing the Rosses' laundry, and answering phones.

The Rosses made Patty's childhood unpleasant, displaying a fierce determination to make her a star that was so intense that Patty never was allowed to play with her friends, to have privacy, to even make friends. In fact, Patty accuses the Rosses of everything from verbal abuse to sexual abuse. However, Patty also admits that if it were not for the Rosses, she never would have become the actress she is today. The Rosses got Patty multiple commercials early in her childhood, arranged for her to make appearances on several television shows, and even got her a spot on a television game show, in which she made more than thirty thousand dollars. However, this appearance led to a grand jury indictment and Patty being forced to testify before Congress.

When Patty was twelve, she auditioned for the part of Helen Keller in the Broadway play, The Miracle Worker. Patty had trained for nearly a year, learning how to navigate obstacles with her eyes closed, pretending to not hear, and speaking as though she were deaf. The producers of the play were concerned about her age and possible growth, but Patty convinced them she was the best one for the part. Patty made her stage debut in Philadelphia, an experience that began a run that would last a year and a half. During the run of the Broadway version of The Miracle Worker, Patty would become deeply attached to her co-star, Anne Bancroft, as well as other cast and crew of the play. During this time as well, Patty would be the youngest actress to have her name above the play's name on the marquee, a media ploy that deeply embarrassed Patty at the time.

After Patty left The Miracle Worker, she was tapped to play the same role in the movie version. This was like a reunion of sorts for Patty, creating not only a movie that she would continue to be proud of throughout her lifetime, but also reinforcing relationships that would also last a lifetime. It was also during this period that Patty was molested by John Ross.

After The Miracle Worker, the Rosses made a deal with ABC to begin a television show to showcase Patty's talents. Patty spent a weekend in Los Angeles with Sidney Sheldon, the bestselling author who was a television writer at the time. Sidney Sheldon created the premise of the show, identical cousins who were the same on the outside, but radically different on the inside. The show ran for three seasons. Patty found the show boring and trite, bored with the characters. However, it was on the set of this show that Patty met her first husband, Harry Falk.

Harry Falk was an assistant director on The Patty Duke Show, who was many years older than Patty and already married. However, Harry's marriage dissolved during a brief absence from The Patty Duke Show. When Harry returned to the show, he and Patty began dating. The Rosses allowed this at first, but soon became concerned when it became clear the relationship was serious. The Rosses moved The Patty Duke Show to Los Angeles in an attempt to separate the lovers, but this act only led to a final break between them and Patty. Patty and Harry married in a small ceremony in 1965. They would work together on what would become the last three episodes of The Patty Duke Show and discover that marriage and work do not always mix well.

After the cancellation of The Patty Duke Show, Patty slipped into a depression. Patty would have panic attacks at the idea of going to the grocery store. On vacation, Patty refused to read a book to share with Harry because the words simply did not make sense to her. During a fight with Harry, Patty took an overdose of pills. Finally Harry had Patty hospitalized in Los Angeles. Patty was transferred to a mental institution, where she suddenly broke free of the depression that left her unable to speak, speaking more than she had in months. After her release from the hospital, Harry promised to never have her hospitalized again.

Patty and Harry's marriage became strained. Patty would often threaten to take pills when they fought, manipulating Harry's emotions. During a separation for work in 1968, Patty was thrown into a frenzy when she learned of the death of Robert Kennedy, a politician she not only supported but for whose campaign she had worked. When Patty could not reach Harry, she became distraught. Eventually Patty would learn that Harry had been in their home with a lover.

Harry and Patty's divorce was a simple one, mostly because Patty thought if she gave Harry all he wanted, he would come back to her. Instead, Patty would arrive at Harry's house late one night and find him with his lover. This time when Patty took the pills, she did not make sure someone would find her quick enough to save her life. It was only with luck that Patty's friends discovered what she had done and got her help. During that time, Patty was filming a movie, and this attempt on her life, coupled with erratic behavior, caused a split between her and the director of the film, a man she had considered a close friend after their work together on The Miracle Worker.

After the divorce, Patty did a movie called My Sweet Charlie with Al Freeman. Their relationship began roughly, but by the end of the film they were close friends. During this film, Patty's hotel room was searched on a tip and marijuana was found. The marijuana was not Patty's, but she was never able to defend herself on this fact because no one bothered to ask. No charges were ever brought against her, but knowledge of this find would plague Patty for years, especially based on the erratic behavior she continued to experience. This included her acceptance speech for an Emmy she won for My Sweet Charlie, a speech that was rambling and incoherent.

During this time, Patty began dating seventeen-year-old Desi Arnaz Jr. Patty went to dinner with Desi the first time because she believed he wanted to talk about a recording contract. Instead, Patty found herself on a date. Patty quickly fell in love with Desi and they began an affair that was highly publicized because of both their celebrity. Lucille Ball, Desi's mother, objected to the relationship and threatened to throw Desi out of the house on several occasions if he did not stop seeing Patty. At one point, Desi broke off the relationship, but Patty followed the family on vacation, reuniting with Desi. Toward the end of their relationship, Patty learned she was pregnant. The press believed Desi was the father and Patty allowed them to believe it. However, Patty had also been involved with two other men about the time she became pregnant and believed one of them was the biological father.

In the summer of 1970, Patty met John Astin at an ABC affiliates convention. During this convention, a discussion of death took place and Patty could see John Astin had the same paralyzing fear she had. This led to an affair that ended after only a few weeks when John returned to his wife and three children. This same summer, Patty sublet her apartment to a man she met in her apartment lobby, Michael Tell. Patty was supposed to do a play in Chicago. However, her erratic behavior and physical illness caused Patty to be fired from the play. Patty returned to her apartment, suffering from what she thought at the time was morning sickness. Michael cared for her through her illness, so when he asked her to marry him out of the blue, Patty agreed.

Patty and Michael rented a private plane and flew to Las Vegas for the wedding. Afterward, Patty spent most of the evening paying off Michael's gambling debts. A short time later, Patty flew to New York alone and called Anne Bancroft for help in getting out of the marriage. The marriage lasted only thirteen days.

After the birth of her son, Sean, Patty and John Astin reunited. They married when John's marriage to his first wife was finally over. Patty and John took custody of John's three boys when his ex-wife decided she could not longer handle them. In time, Patty adopted the boys and raised them as her own, alongside Sean and her younger son, Mackenzie. John and Patty took the boys on the road and worked doing plays in multiple venues. This lifestyle was adventurous, but it created a tension that took its toll.

During her marriage to John Astin, Patty began seeing his psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Arlen. One night, after having suffered insomnia for several days and going without eating, Patty experienced what she continues to believe was a spiritual revelation. This revelation allowed Patty to discover that there is something after death, relieving her lifetime fear of death. However, this episode so frightened John that he rushed her to Dr. Arlen in an attempt to bring her out of it. John refused to believe the experience was spiritual, but believed it was a psychotic break. This caused resentment on Patty's behalf, especially when John turned to Buddhism after the death of his father and expected the entire family to follow his lead. Patty filed for divorce in 1985 after thirteen years of marriage, based largely on John's religious conversion.

In 1982, while filming a short lived television show called It Takes Two, Patty had an attack of laryngitis. Due to the fact that she was filming that day, Patty went to a doctor who gave her a cortisone injection. While the cortisone solved the laryngitis, it set off a manic attack that caused Patty to have gastrointestinal problems, an inability to sleep, and wild, uncontrollable thoughts. Patty went to see Dr. Arlen during this period and was finally diagnosed with manic depression, a mental illness marked by wild mood swings that is now known as Bipolar Disorder. Patty began taking Lithium, a natural salt normally found in the human body, and has been able to avoid the sudden highs and lows that have marked her adulthood up to this point.

In 1985, two major events took place in Patty's life. First, Patty ran for and won the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, a union for actors. That same year Patty began work on the film, A Time to Triumph. The film was about a woman who joined the army to get medical benefits for her husband. As part of the preparation for the film Patty met with two drill instructors who were to help her prepare for the scenes in which she must go through basic training. One of the instructors was a new graduate named Michael Pearce. After spending a week together working out, Patty and Michael began an affair. They married in 1986, six months after they first met.

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This section contains 2,052 words
(approx. 7 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke Study Guide
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Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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