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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June, 2005, 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK
Graduate star Anne Bancroft dies
Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

Oscar-winning actress Anne Bancroft, who starred opposite Dustin Hoffman in film classic The Graduate, has died.

The actress, who was 73, died of cancer, spokesman John Barlow said.

She had five Oscar nominations, including one win for playing the teacher of a young Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker in 1963.

She married comedian Mel Brooks in 1964. Her most famous role came in 1967 as the woman who seduced her daughter's boyfriend, played by Hoffman.

The Graduate earned her third Oscar nomination - after The Miracle Worker and 1964 marriage drama The Pumpkin Eater.

Anne Bancroft in 1963

She was also up for Academy Awards for ballet saga The Turning Point in 1978 and as a nun in 1985 thriller Agnes of God.

She died of uterine cancer on Monday at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, Mr Barlow said.

Lights were dimmed on Broadway in her honour on Tuesday night, where Bancroft gave Tony-winning performances in the late 1950s.

She starred opposite Patty Duke in Miracle Worker, about the life of deaf-blind Helen Keller and her helper Annie Sullivan, which was later made into a film.

Duke, who played Keller at the age of 12, described working with Bancroft as "breathtaking".

She added: "What I learned from her, really, was having a sense of humour and knowing how important laughter was."

Acting achievements

Duke, 58, recalled the moment in the play when Bancroft's character announced to Helen's parents that she has finally communicated with their daughter by yelling: "She knows!"

"And the sound that she had in her voice transported every creature in the theatre to the place where you find lost souls," Duke said.

"It's fascinating to have had so profound an experience as a child and be 58 years old and still be able to feel it and touch it and almost smell it."

In 2003, Bancroft complained that her role as Mrs Robinson in The Graduate had overshadowed her other acting achievements.

Anne Bancroft with husband Mel Brooks
Anne Bancroft was married to comedian Mel Brooks

"I am quite surprised that with all my work, and some of it is very, very good, that nobody talks about The Miracle Worker," she said.

"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, said Bancroft was a masterful performer.

"Her combination of brains, humour, frankness and sense were unlike any other artist," he said.

"Her beauty was constantly shifting with her roles, and because she was a consummate actress she changed radically for every part."


Despite just a handful of film appearances in the 1960s, three earned her Oscar nominations.

She continued to garner acclaim in the 1970s in films such as Richard Attenborough's Young Winston and The Prisoner of Second Avenue, with Jack Lemmon.

In the 1980s, she starred opposite her husband Mel Brooks in To Be or Not to Be, played Anthony Hopkins' pen pal in 84 Charing Cross Road and garnered acclaim in Garbo Talks and Night, Mother.

She recently attracted more accolades in TV movies, with six Emmy nominations since 1992.

But she continued to work in film, taking supporting roles in GI Jane, Great Expectations, Keeping the Faith and as the voice of the queen in animated hit Antz.

Bancroft was also credited with persuading her husband to work on a stage musical version of his film The Producers. The play has gone on to be a huge success.

The Graduate was also turned into a theatre show in London's West End, with actresses including Kathleen Turner and Jerry Hall in the Mrs Robinson role.

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08 Jun 05 |  Have Your Say
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