Anne Bancroft Biography

Anne Bancroft

She met Mel Brooks on a chatshow and he followed her for three days. Soon they were married and have stayed together for over 30 years. A Hollywood success story.

Oscar winning actress, writer and director, Anne Bancroft’s birth name was Anna Maria Louisa Italiano; born to Italian first generation American parents Michael and Mildred Italiano, in the Bronx area of New York City.

She was the middle sister to Joanne and Phyllis. From the age of four, Bancroft was already attending dancing and acting lessons.

After graduating and having had various formal dramatic arts’ tuition, Bancroft’s career started in live television under the name Anne Marno. In 1952, having changed her name to Bancroft, she made her cinema debut in 'Don’t Bother to Knock' that starred Marilyn Monroe.

Four years on and having married Martin May (whom within four years she would divorce) Bancroft went into theatre and won a Tony Award after appearing opposite Henry Fonda in the Broadway production of 'Two for the Seesaw'.

In 1960, she picked up her second Tony for 'The Miracle Worker', where her character taught a blind and deaf girl to communicate. It was subsequently made into a film where Bancroft went on to win an Oscar for her lead role together with a BAFTA for ‘Best Foreign Actress’ – Bancroft won this latter award again for 'The Pumpkin Eater' (1964).

During a variety show in 1961, Bancroft met Mel Brooks. Three years on they were married and stayed together for over 40 years (until her death) – they had a son Max in ’72, who is a screenwriter.

Mel Brooks called his wife “Obi-Wan Kenobi” after she encouraged him to turn his film 'The Producers' (1968) into a musical – it went on to be a resounding success!

In 1967, came the role that overshadowed her career, Mrs Robinson, in 'The Graduate'. Playing Dustin Hoffman’s girlfriend’s mother, she was only six years older. The film won an Oscar and Bancroft gained an Oscar nomination for her seductive lead.

One of a few entertainers to scoop the Triple Crown of acting: an Oscar, Emmy and Tony, after her acclaimed television special, 'Annie: the Women in the Life of a Man' made up the trio in 1970.

Taking up writing in 1980 saw Bancroft make her debut as a screenwriter and a director on the comedy 'Fatso'.

In 1987, she appeared on the chat show 'Wogan', terrified of the live broadcast. Host Wogan later admitted that her nervous monosyllabic interview was the hardest he ever had.

“Her combination of brains, humour, frankness and sense were unlike any other artist.”

Making a swift recovery, the following year, she won a BAFTA Award for ‘Best Actress’ for her role opposite Anthony Hopkins in '84 Charring Cross Road'.

The American Comedy Awards honoured her with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 1996. Since 1992 Bancroft gained six Emmy nominations and won an Emmy for ‘Outstanding Support Actress’ in the TV film 'Deep in My Heart' (1999).

In June 2005, a couple of months after her grandson was born, she died of cancer. Paul Simon sang Mrs Robinson at her funeral, whilst Broadway honoured her by dimming their lights.

The Graduate’s director Mike Nichols, who won the film’s only Oscar, claimed: “Her combination of brains, humour, frankness and sense were unlike any other artist.”

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