Judge allows Patty Duke theater dispute to go to trial

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Judge allows Patty Duke theater dispute to go to trial

Mon Oct 05, 2009 @ 11:11AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Patty duke A New York district court has given former child star Patty Duke some reprieve from hard times, refusing to dismiss a lawsuit against three theatrical production companies who pulled an offer for her to play former Israeli prime minister Golden Maer in a one-woman show.

Duke (real name: Anna Pearce) won an Academy Award in 1963 for her role as Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker," starred in a popular TV show and was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Despite her accomplishments, she's battled depression and a fading career.

In 2006, Duke sued the Manhattan Ensemble Theater and others responsible for a show called "Golda's Balcony," claiming they reneged on an oral agreement for her to appear in the show. The lawsuit claimed that producers got cold feet after Duke was fired from an appearance on "Law & Order: SVU" when she allegedly couldn't deliver her lines.  

The court's decision attempts to analyze standard practices in the theater industry, whether use of oral contracts or signed written contracts are required to create binding agreements for actors to star in productions. In the decision, Judge Kimba Wood writes that "Whether the parties intended to be bound only by written contract is a question of fact that is usually best determined by a jury at trial."

The case will go to trial later this month.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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