Anne Bancroft was born on September 17, 1931 in the Bronx, the daughter of Michael Italiano (1905-2001), a dress pattern maker, and Mildred DiNapoli (1908-2010), a telephone operator. She made her cinema debut in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) in 1952 and over the next five years appeared in a lot of undistinguished movies as a supporting actress, such as Gorilla at Large (1954), New York Confidential (1955) and The Girl in Black Stockings (1957). By 1957 she had grown dissatisfied with the roles she was getting, left the film industry and spent the next five years doing plays on Broadway. She returned to the screen in 1962 with her portrayal of Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker(1962), for which she won an Oscar. Bancroft went on to give acclaimed performances in The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Slender Thread (1965), Young Winston (1972), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), The Elephant Man (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983), 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) and other movies as lead actress, but her most famous role would be as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967). Her status as the predatory “older woman” in the film is iconic, although in real life she was just 36 and only six years older than co-star Dustin Hoffman.
Bancroft would later express her frustration over the fact that the film overshadowed her other work. Selective for much of her intermittent career, she appeared on the screen more frequently in the ’90s, playing a range of characters in such films as Love Potion No. 9 (1992), Point of No Return (1993), Home for the Holidays (1995), G.I. Jane (1997), Great Expectations (1998) and Up at the Villa(2000). She also started to make some TV films, including Deep in My Heart (1999) for which she won an Emmy.
Sadly, on June 6, 2005, Bancroft passed away at the age of 73 from uterine cancer. Her death surprised many, as she had not revealed any information of her illness to the public. Among her survivors was her husband of 41 years, Mel Brooks, and her only child, Max Brooks, who was born in 1972. Her final film, the animated feature Delgo (2008), was released posthumously in 2008 and dedicated to her memory.
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