Skip to comments.Anne Bancroft dead
Posted on 06/08/2005 5:09:31 AM PDT by ko_kyi
NEW YORK - Anne Bancroft, who won the 1962 best actress Oscar as the teacher of a young Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" but achieved greater fame as the seductive Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate," has died. She was 73.
She died of uterine cancer on Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital, John Barlow, a spokesman for her husband, Mel Brooks, said Tuesday.
Bancroft was awarded the Tony for creating the role on Broadway of poor-sighted Annie Sullivan, the teacher of the deaf and blind Keller. She repeated her portrayal in the film version.
Yet despite her Academy Award and four other nominations, "The Graduate" overshadowed her other achievements.
Dustin Hoffman delivered the famous line when he realized his girlfriend's mother was coming on to him at her house: "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?"
Bancroft complained to a 2003 interviewer: "I am quite surprised that with all my work, and some of it is very, very good, that nobody talks about `The Miracle Worker.' We're talking about Mrs. Robinson. I understand the world. ... I'm just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet."
Mike Nichols, who directed "The Graduate," called Bancroft a masterful performer.
"Her combination of brains, humor, frankness and sense were unlike any other artist," Nichols said in a statement. "Her beauty was constantly shifting with her roles, and because she was a consummate actress she changed radically for every part."
Her beginnings in Hollywood were unimpressive. She was signed by Twentieth Century-Fox in 1952 and given the glamour treatment. She had been acting in television as Anne Marno (her real name: Anna Maria Louise Italiano), but it sounded too ethnic for movies. The studio gave her a choice of names; she picked Bancroft "because it sounded dignified."
After a series of B pictures, she escaped to Broadway in 1958 and won her first Tony opposite Henry Fonda in "Two for the Seesaw." The stage and movie versions of "The Miracle Worker" followed. Her other Academy nominations: "The Pumpkin Eater" (1964); "The Graduate" (1967); "The Turning Point" (1977); "Agnes of God" (1985).
Bancroft became known for her willingness to assume a variety of portrayals. She appeared as Winston Churchill's American mother in TV's "Young Winston"; as Golda Meir in "Golda" onstage; a gypsy woman in the film "Love Potion No. 9"; and a centenarian for the TV version of "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All."
After an unhappy three-year marriage to builder Martin May, Bancroft married comedian-director-producer Brooks in 1956. They met when she was rehearsing a musical number, "Married I Can Always Get," for the Perry Como television show, and a voice from offstage called: "I'm Mel Brooks."
In a 1984 interview she said she told her psychiatrist the next day: "Let's speed this process up I've met the right man. See, I'd never had so much pleasure being with another human being. I wanted him to enjoy me too. It was that simple." A son, Maximilian, was born in 1972.
Bancroft appeared in three of Brooks' comedies: "Silent Movie," a remake of "To Be or Not to Be" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It."
She also was the one who suggested that he make a stage musical of his movie "The Producers." She explained that when he was afraid of writing a full-blown musical, including the music, "I sent him to an analyst."
When Bancroft watched Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick rehearse "The Producers," she realized how much she had missed the theater. In 2002 she returned to Broadway for the first time since 1981, appearing in Edward Albee's "Occupant."
She was born Sept. 17, 1931, in the Bronx to Italian immigrant parents. She recalled scrawling "I want to be an actress" on the back fence of her flat when she was 9. Her father derided her ambitions, saying, "Who are we to dream these dreams?" Her mother was the dreamer, encouraging her daughter in 1958 to enroll at the American Academy for Dramatic Arts.
Live television drama was flourishing in New York in the early 1950s, and Bancroft appeared in 50 shows in two years. "It was the greatest school that one could go to," she said in 1997. "You learn to be concentrated and focused."
In mid-career Bancroft attended the Actors Studio to heighten her understanding of the acting craft. Later she studied at the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women at UCLA. In 1980 she directed a feature, "Fatso," starring Dom DeLuise. It received modest attention.
Among her notable portrayals: a potential suicide in "The Slender Thread"; Mary Magdalene in Franco Zeffirelli's miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth"; actress Madge Kindle in "The Elephant Man"; Anthony Hopkins' pen pal in "84 Charing Cross Road"; feminist U.S. senator in "G.I. Jane"; the Miss Havisham role in a modernized "Great Expectations."
Despite all her memorable performances, Bancroft was remembered most for Mrs. Robinson. In 2003 she admitted that nearly everyone discouraged her from undertaking the role "because it was all about sex with a younger man." She viewed the character as having unfulfilled dreams and having been relegated to a conventional life with a conventional husband.
She added: "Film critics said I gave a voice to the fear we all have: that we'll reach a certain point in our lives, look around and realize that all the things we said we'd do and become will never come to be and that we're ordinary."
She was also a polar explorer.
A wonderful, underrated film and her favorite, from what I gather. A great beauty, a great talent. Salt of the earth type too. No Hollywood BS about her.
Already posted a half dozen times.
"Already posted a half dozen times."
Sorry DCPatriot, I did a search on Anne, Bancroft, Graduate, and got no hits. My search engine technique must be poor.
I happen to "live" here so I saw it last evening. ;^)
She never did mind the little things...
I did not know she and Mel had been married 49 years. That is quite an accomplishment in show business.
This is the only post I've seen and thanks for the picture. Anne Bancroft was a treasure; and the best thing is that I never heard her politics'. . .
A very nice "small movie" is "Garbo Talks." In this she plays a woman dying of cancer and her son's (Ron Silver) quest to grant her last wish.
Why didnt she get a hysterectomy and cut that cancer out before it killed her?
Mrs. Bancroft was pure class. She never used her celerbity to sell goofy causes. Whatever her politics were they were kept to herself.
Your both welcome. I never could understand how actors and actresses could get so upset about their fans loving them for one particular role. If you look at here total career, she had plenty of good works so who cares if everyone remembers just one.
She was a great actress irrespective of The Graduate, but that movie made her an icon and a legend, because the film itself is iconic. But I can see how she'd have rather been remembered for playing the selfless teacher Anne Sullivan, who brought Helen Keller out of the darkness. A much tougher role to play as well I imagine, both physically and mentally.
Well, goodbye, Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you well, and now you know...
Probably because it has spread to other parts of the body before she knew she had it.
Uterine and ovarian cancers are not always easy to diagnose. Contrary to popular belief, PAP smears do not detect them. And often, they are asymptomatic. By the time any symptoms do appear, the cancer has already spread.
I know this because one of my friends had uterine cancer -- she was lucky...she is still living. Another person I know had ovarian cancer -- she wasn't so lucky.
When she played the part of the cradle robbing Mrs. Robinson, Anne was only 5+ years older than the youthful looking Dustin Hoffman.
I did hear that somewhere, but had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder.
I don't know if it was the makeup or her great acting skills, but she managed to pull it off.
Rest in Peace, Ms. Bancroft. And condolences to your wonderful husband, Mr. Brooks.
You think that's weird, Angela Lansbury was only three years older than Laurence Harvery, who portrayed her son, in the original Manchurian Candidate.
Bancroft was a joy to watch. I loved her, Mel, and Tim Matheson in the remake of "To Be or Not To Be." If you like Mel Brooks, you will love "To Be or Not To Be"
I never saw that film...will have to rent it one day. Thanks for the tip. :)
Do you know what their ages were? That is interesting--she seemed so much older.
Had to be true love to be married to Brooks for 49 years if he had any Blazing Saddles campfire behavior in him.
At the time of the movie Anne was 37 and Dustin was 31
Yikes! Only 37? I think her husky voice contributed mightily to her playing a woman I would have put in her mid-50's.
My wife and I met her once, in Los Angeles, at a play preview. She was charming, earthy, direct, droll, lovely. Her husband Mel Brooks was there, met him too. Mel Brooks in person was the nonstop funniest guy I've ever met. He was instantly "on," and my wife and I were laughing so hard our faces hurt.
And Jessie Royce Landis played Cary Grant's mother in North by Northwest, but was actually younger than he was.
. . .of course, I never doubted her politics; but just offering appreciatively; that I never 'heard' them.
She was world famous in Poland
Another great "small movie" is "84 Charing Cross Road" a true story about the 20 year correspondence between a New York booklover (Bancroft) and an English bookseller (Sir Anthony Hopkins). Simply wonderful.
She sang great in Polish too!
Thanks for the suggestion.
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