Michael Tell’s marriage to Patty Duke still remains one of the most fascinating parts of the actress’s career. Duke, the late actress who was best known for her portrayal of Helen Keller in the film The Miracle Worker, married Tell only for a total of 13 days. It is not known for how long the pair dated or how they met and much of what is known about Tell is neither here nor there. Tell had 13 days of fame in a marriage that eventually ended in annulment. However, the 13 days of his marriage brought Tell a lifetime of fame beyond the life of his ex-wife. So, for this article, we will try to understand everything that is known about Michael Tell and his marriage to Patty Duke.
The 13-day marriage:
In early 1970, Patty Duke began dating Michael Tell but was also dating three other men at the same time. Apart from Tell, Patty was dating the 17-year-old Here’s Lucy star Desi Arnaz, Jr., actor John Astin, who was 16-years her senior. While Duke’s relationship with Tell never made it to the front pages, her relationship with Arnaz was widely publicized due to regular opinions and interviews of Arnaz’s mother. Duke and Arnaz eventually broke off and on June 26, 1970, Duke married Michael Tell. The marriage came about after she learned that she was pregnant and wanted to make sure that her son had a name. She married Michael in a manic state after Michael was subletting her apartment. The marriage lasted only for a total of 13 days before being annulled on July 9, 1970.
The baby that was denied to Tell:
Duke had a baby boy, actor Sean Austin, on February 25, 1971. In her 1987 autobiography, Call Me Anna, Duke revealed that she never consummated her marriage with Tell and that the real father of Sean was actor John Astin. She falsified her relationship with Tell in a series of chapters and later told Sean that Arnaz Jr. was his real father. But when sean demanded a paternity test in 1994, it was revealed that it was, in fact, Michael Tell who was his real father. However, following Duke’s later marriage to John Astin in August 1972, Sean was legally adopted by Astin.
Following the pair’s annulment after 13 days as a married couple, Michael Tell completely disappeared from the media and has remained that way ever since. While many outlets report that Tell never remarried there are no proofs to support the claim. On the other hand, Duke tied the knot for the fourth time after her divorce from Astin, to drill sergeant Michael Pearce. The pair tied the knot in 1986 and remained together up until Duke’s death in 2016. Following her untimely passing, the family released a statement that read,
“This morning, our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, matriarch and the exquisite artist, humanitarian, and champion for mental health, Anna PATTY DUKE Pearce, closed her eyes, quieted her pain and ascended to a beautiful place. We celebrate the infinite love and compassion she shared through her work and compassion throughout her life.”
Bits and pieces:
Not much is known about Tell’s early life and details of his career were never talked of in the media. He worked as a music promoter after falling in love with rock music during his high school years and was also a publisher, and writer. After his 13-day marriage, Tell disappeared from the media and his whereabouts remain unknown to date.
A quick write on Patty Duke:
Patty Duke was an American actress, singer, and author. She was born on December 14, 1946, in Queens, New York City, and passed away on March 29, 2016, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Duke began her career as a child actress, and at the age of 16, she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in “The Miracle Worker” (1962), in which she portrayed Helen Keller. She went on to star in her own sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show,” which aired from 1963 to 1966. In the show, she played dual roles as identical cousins, Patty and Cathy.
Throughout her career, Duke appeared in numerous films, television shows, and stage productions. She was also a successful author, writing several books about her life, including her memoir “Call Me Anna.”
Duke was a prominent advocate for mental health awareness and spoke openly about her struggles with bipolar disorder. In 1987, she was awarded the Anna Freud National Award for Excellence in Advocacy for Children and Adolescents.