The two actresses are award-winners of the same age, both All American-types, with powerful acting abilities packed into their compact, energetic bodies. But their seeming similarities do not mean that analysis of their lives at mid-career results in equally readable books.
Screen Actors Guild president Patty Duke started acting when she was just 7. That's when personal managers Ethel and John Ross took her over--changing her name, making all her decisions and separating her from her mother and father. The coaching and conniving of the Rosses were successful. They pushed their little protege to Broadway stardom, an Academy Award for "The Miracle Worker" and her own TV series while still a teen-ager. And they lived so well off of her nearly $1 million in earnings that only an $84,000 trust fund was left for her.
From her own parents, Duke had inherited tendencies toward alcoholism and mental illness, and feelings of abandonment. The Rosses subjected her to constant criticism and tight control, introduced her to their own alcohol and pill habits, and caused her to be (in Duke's words) "about as molested as I ever want a little girl to get."
When she could finally rid herself of her self-appointed mentors, she found her years of helplessness had left her unable to fight a downward spiral of self-destruction, complete with tragic divorce, rash marriage, suicide attempts, hospitalization, and career disasters.