Anne Bancroft (1931 - 2005)
Anne Bancroft passed away from cancer this week. To a generation – indeed to a number of generations – Anne Bancroft personified the sexuality of the mature woman. She was the actress whose silky arched thigh gave Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin such consternation in The Graduate – in the famous poster image, her leg seems to cut Hoffman apart at the waist.
But Bancroft could do more with an arched eyebrow than most screen sirens could manage with full frontal nudity. A graduate of the American Academy for the Dramatic Arts in the early 1950s, Bancroft came of age during the most exciting period of American theatre and distinguished herself on the stage, notably in two productions directed by Arthur Penn. She had tried Hollywood and failed – she was never starlet material; too intense, and probably too dark. Penn took her back West with him when he made The Miracle Worker into a movie. Bancroft's staggering performance as blind Helen Keller's teacher, Annie Sullivan, won her an Oscar, just as it had won her a Tony award on Broadway.
The Graduate (1967) consolidated her stardom, and she worked regularly in the theatre and in a wide range of movies, from Young Winston to Agnes of God and The Turning Point. It didn't hurt that her second husband, Mel Brooks, was a successful filmmaker and producer in his own right, and at an age when many actresses struggle to find parts, she was handed plumb roles in high calibre films like The Elephant Man and 84 Charing Cross Road. Not that didn't deserve them. Even in much smaller roles, in GI Jane or Point of No Return for example, she was invariably marvellous.
Even so, one role in particular will remain indelibly her own…
And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson,
See all of Anne Bancroft's films