7 June 2005 | IMDb News

Actress Anne Bancroft, who won an Oscar for The Miracle Worker and a place in pop culture history as the seductive Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, died Monday of cancer; she was 73. The wife of comedian Mel Brooks, Bancroft died in New York at Mt. Sinai Hospital. One of the most popular actresses of the '60s, Bancroft's career started off dubiously in the '50s with a number of B movies for 20th Century Fox such as Gorilla at Large and Demetrius and the Gladiators. The studio also renamed the young actress, who was born Anna Maria Louise Italiano and originally went by Anne Marno; given a list of names, she chose the dignified Bancroft. However, fulfilling roles for the versatile TV and movie actress didn't follow, and Bancroft left both big and small screens for Broadway in the late 50s, winning two Tonys, for Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker. When Hollywood came calling to adapt both films, Bancroft lost the role in the former to Shirley MacLaine. However, when studio heads wanted a more glamorous actress for the role of Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, director Arthur Penn put his foot down and refused to budge. Then faced with a minimal budget, Penn created a gripping black-and-white film which won Oscars in 1962 for both Bancroft and co-star Patty Duke (as Helen Keller). That role was followed by another Oscar-nominated performance in The Pumpkin Eater and the acclaimed The Slender Thread and 7 Women. In 1967, however, Bancroft did a total 180 from her saintly persona as Annie Sullivan and donned leopard-skin lingerie for her role as the wily Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, which nabbed her another Oscar nomination and permanent enshrinement in film history. By then, she had seduced not just Dustin Hoffman but the filmgoing public as well, and for the rest of her career she was pretty much able to call her own shots. She worked almost non-stop through the '70s and '80s in both comedic and dramatic films, including The Turning Point (another Oscar nomination), The Elephant Man, To Be or Not To Be (directed by her husband), Agnes of God (her last Oscar nomination), 84 Charing Cross Road, and Torch Song Trilogy. In the '90s Bancroft took a number of character roles, most notably as a mysterious old con woman in Malice, a menacing senator in G.I. Jane, a comedic matriarch in Home For the Holidays, an elegant trainer of a young assassin in Point of No Return, and an updated Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations; she most recently appeared in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, for which she received an Emmy nomination. Bancroft is survived by her husband, whom she married in 1964, and their son, Max. --Prepared by IMDb staff

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