Call Me Anna (1990)

The year after Patty Duke became the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award for her performance in The Miracle Worker (1962) she starred in her own TV sitcom, portraying identical cousins with vastly different personalities. Twenty years later, after bouts of alcoholism, overdoses and failed marriages, the actress discovered in a cruel twist of fate that she suffered from bipolar disorder.

 

Yet this biopic opens with a scene that more readily recalls Duke’s depiction of Helen Keller, as an enraged, out-of-control Duke destroys the bedroom she shares with husband, John Astin while her two young sons haplessly look on. Flashing back to 1958, the film begins to recount Duke’s turbulent life, from her removal from her parents, the abuse of her custodians/managers and her involvement in television’s quiz show scandal. And this all occurred before she won her Oscar at the age of 16!

 

Ari Meyers gives a heart-rending performance of Duke at this stage of her life, but when the role is taken over by a bland Jenny Robertson, the film loses much of its momentum. Also dissipating established empathy is the cursory treatment given to Duke’s affair with Desi Arnaz Jr, her role in Valley of the Dolls (1967) and three failed marriages. Fortunately once Patty Duke assumes the role as herself the film kicks into gear once more.

 

Incidentally, the two young sons depicted in the opening scene, Sean and Mackenzie, would emulate their mother and extend their early success as child actors into adulthood.

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The character of Glenn Bell is based on Patty Duke's second husband, Michael Tell.

 

The title of the quiz show Patty Duke appeared on was 'The $64,000 Question', not 'The $64,000 Challenge'.

Biopic features a scene recreation from Duke’s stint on the television quiz show ‘The $64,000 Question’ and her acceptance speeches at the Oscars and Emmys. The only scene recreations from her films are a brief clip from Valley of the Dolls, and a scene from The Miracle Worker.

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