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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Obituary: Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft
Bancroft was bemused by her fame as Mrs Robinson
She was one of the most celebrated actresses of the 1960s and 1970s, winning five Academy Award nominations and an Oscar itself for her role in The Miracle Worker.

Yet, ask anyone their memory of Anne Bancroft and it's the image of the bored housewife in The Graduate listening to Dustin Hoffman asking the question "Mrs Robinson, you're trying to seduce me, aren't you?"

It was the role which, for a short time at least, gave an impetus to "mature female" roles.

Anne Bancroft felt it was an albatross around her neck. 30 years later, she was still addressed as "Mrs Robinson" by passers-by on the street.

"I'm just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet," she said.

The woman who was to become one of America's most popular character actresses learned her craft in 1950s' B-movies and in live television shows.

She was born Anna Maria Louise Italiano in New York's Bronx in 1931, and began acting as Anne Marno. But it was felt this name sounded too ethnic, so she opted instead for Bancroft.

Though her output at this time was not distinguished, she was grateful for the discipline instilled into her by live TV. She appeared in some 50 shows in two years.

Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker
Bancroft won an Oscar for her role in The Miracle Worker
"It was the greatest school that one could have gone to. You learn to be concentrated and focused," she said.

It was ironic, therefore, that in later years, Bancroft became immensely shy of live television, as witnessed most famously on a Wogan chat show in which she completely dried up on learning the programme was not recorded.

Method student

Initially intent on simply becoming a movie star, dissatisfaction gradually set in as she "really wanted to learn how to act".

She attended the Actors Studio in New York, famous for teaching an intense style known as the Method, beloved of actors such as Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Bancroft secured parts on Broadway, and in 1958, won her first Tony opposite Henry Fonda in Two for the Seesaw. She credits its director, Arthur Penn, for developing her talent. Ironically, it made her a star.

It also inspired its playwright, William Gibson, to write a play for her - The Miracle Worker - about the blind, deaf and speechless Helen Keller.

The film version earned her an Oscar in 1962.


A scene from The Graduate
Seductress: She sizzled as the sultry Mrs Robinson in The Graduate
Her Oscar nominations were for The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Graduate (1967), The Turning Point (1977) and Agnes of God (1985).

In recent years, Anne Bancroft appeared opposite Demi Moore in GI Jane, lent her voice to the computer-animated film Antz, and played for laughs in Heartbreakers in 2001.

After an unhappy three-year marriage to builder Martin May, Anne Bancroft married the comedian-director Mel Brooks in 1964.

Bancroft is credited with having persuaded her husband to transform his movie The Producers into a highly-successful stage musical.

"She can do anything," Arthur Penn once said of Anne Bancroft. "She could play Queen Victoria in a minute. She's a magnificent actress in every respect."

Graduate star Anne Bancroft dies
08 Jun 05 |  Entertainment
Anne Bancroft: Your tributes
08 Jun 05 |  Have Your Say
The Graduate's London term ends
18 Jan 02 |  Entertainment



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