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Saturday, January 27, 2018

New Book by Patty Duke and Stars of Her Time



IN THE PRESENCE OF GREATNESS: MY SIXTY-YEAR JOURNEY AS AN ACTRESS
By Patty Duke and William J. Jankowski
Publisher: BearManor Media (February 14, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1629332364
ISBN-13: 978-1629332369

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton Originally for Book Pleasures.com

On September 13, 2011, I had the pleasure of conducting an extensive interview with actress Patty Duke on “Dave White Presents, “an online radio show I co-hosted at the time.   As I always did considerable homework for these conversations, I had read her 1987 memoir, Call Me Anna, where I learned Patty far preferred using her birth name, Anna. I was also aware of her second best-selling memoir, Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness (1992). So I was intrigued to see Anna had a third posthumous memoir coming out via BearManor Media in 2018. What could she say about her life she hadn’t already told us?

The answer is simple: this time around, the spotlight isn’t on Anna Duke Pierce (her last married name). Rather, it’s a treasure trove of character sketches, impressions of, and anecdotes about, many actors Anna knew over the decades. Some colleagues Anna knew well, others she encountered in passing. Most chapter titles are the names of the personalities Anna describes including Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, Helen Hayes, Anne Bancroft, Judy Garland, President John F. Kennedy, Helen Keller, Gloria Vanderbilt, Lucille Ball and her son, Desi Arnez Jr., Frank Sinatra senior and Frank Sinatra Jr., Betty White, Patricia Neal, Liza Minnelli, and Helen Hunt. Some stories are extremely poignant including Anna’s memories of her friendship with the doomed beauty, Sharon Tate. Anna also expresses her longtime fondness for her Patty Duke Show co-stars including William Schallert, Jean Byron, Paul O'Keefe, and Eddie Applegate. Sadly, O’Keefe is now the only surviving cast member of the show.

It’s also sad to note, even after all these years, Anna’s unscrupulous and manipulative  talent managers, John and Ethel Ross, still cast a pall over so many passages covering Anna’s early years in show business. On the other hand, as Anna told her co-writer,   it has been 30 years since she published Call Me Anna which meant her new memoir gave her many opportunities to express how her mind had changed regarding a number of folks. In addition, Anna takes ownership of many errors in her life while acknowledging many of them came from her once undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  For me, the saddest sentences in the book were when she mentioned the sorts of roles she hoped for when she reached her 70s. When Anna Pierce died in 2016, she had a pretty deep bucket list.

So this is a book for anyone interested in Hollywood history of the past 60 years whether or not you’re a fan of Patty Duke.  You’ll get nuggets and insights into many of your favorite stars from an insider’s very human perspective.  It’s a book that positively glows with positive energy, as in Anna’s praise for so many colleagues like her favorite leading man, Richard Crenna. You’ll also likely learn about many of Anna’s other roles beyond The Miracle Worker, The Patty Duke Show, and The Valley of the Dolls, especially her many TV moviesYou can also trace her career with the 70 plus photos from Anna’s personal collection.

In short, In the Presence of Greatness is a nice final contribution to the Patty Duke legacy. I’m glad I spent the hours reading these warm, intimate, and very personable memories.       And I’d like to thank William J. Jankowski for instigating this project after hearing Anna telling him some of these tales.  And he should be thanked for completing this book after Anna’s passing in march of 2016.

MORE ON THE TOPIC

Here’s an excerpt from the book posted at the “Patty Duke Fans” Facebook page:

MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

 Dr. Wesley Britton is the author of The Beta Earth Chronicles and reviews for BookPleasures.com. Learn more about Beta Earth Chronicles website:
Here’s a link to my   2011 interview with Patty Duke for “Dave White Presents”:

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