Anne Bancroft (September 17, 1931 - June 6, 2005) was an iconic Academy Award-winning American actress, born Anna Maria Louisa Italiano in The Bronx, New York to Michael and Mildred Italiano, both children of Italian immigrants.
Bancroft attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Actors Studio, and the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women at UCLA.
After appearing in a number of live television dramas under the name "Anne Marno", she was told to change her surname for her film debut in Don't Bother to Knock in 1952, and she chose the surname "Bancroft" because she felt it was "elegant". She was a contract player in the early days of her career just as the studio contract system was ending. She left Hollywood and returned to New York due to the quality of roles she was being offered. It was a wise move.
From July 1, 1953 to February 13, 1957 she was married to Martin May, but the marriage produced no children. From 1964 to her death 2005 she was married to Mel Brooks.
In 1958 she appeared opposite Henry Fonda in the Broadway production of Two for the Seesaw, for which she won a Tony Award, and another in 1960 for The Miracle Worker. She took the latter role back to Hollywood, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1962. A highly acclaimed television special, "Annie: the Women in the Life of a Man" won her an Emmy award for her clowning, singing and acting. Bancroft was one of a very select few to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony award.
Other major roles were in The Pumpkin Eater, 7 Women, and The Graduate, which may be her signature role as Mrs. Robinson opposite Dustin Hoffman. She sometimes said that her role in The Graduate overshadowed all of her other work. Anne was not the first choice for the role of Mrs. Robinson, coming after Doris Day and Jeanne Moreau turned it down; however, it is now hard to imagine anyone else in the part. The May-September screen romance between Hoffman and Bancroft shows the enormous believability of both actors; the age difference between them was a mere six years.
In 1961 Bancroft met Mel Brooks in a rehearsal for the Perry Como variety show. Brooks bribed a studio employee to find out where she was having dinner so he could meet her again. They married on August 5, 1964 in New York City Hall and were together until her death. They had one son, Maximillian, in 1972. They were seen twice on the screen together: once dancing a tango in Brooks's 1976 Silent Movie, and again in Brooks's 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be. Also, Brooks produced the 1980 film The Elephant Man, in which Bancroft acted. It is reported she was the one who encouraged Brooks to turn The Producers into a Broadway musical. She also had a cameo playing herself along with Mel Brooks on an episode of Larry David's HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm where the couple celebrated the (presumed) demise of The Producers so that they could leave it behind them.
In 1980, she made her debut as a screenwriter and director in Fatso, in which she starred along with Dom DeLuise.
Bancroft died on June 6, 2005 of uterine cancer aged 73 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, which surprised many people who had not even known that the very private actress was ill. Mel Brooks held a memorial service for her some weeks later and advised the guests, including former co-star Patty Duke (who came all the way from her home in Idaho, which she rarely leaves) that if anyone felt like grieving, to "keep it to yourself". When a reporter asked Duke's opinion of Bancroft, Duke replied that she could not think of enough superlatives. Bancroft was survived by Brooks, their son, her mother and two sisters. She is interred at the Kensico Cemetery in Vallhalla, New York, near her father, Michael Italiano.