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Anna Maria Louisa Italiano (September 17, 1931 – June 6, 2005), known professionally as Anne Bancroft, was an American actress, director, screenwriter and singer associated with the method acting school, having studied under Lee Strasberg. Respected for her acting prowess and versatility, Bancroft was acknowledged for her work in film, theatre and television. She won one Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, two Tony Awards and two Emmy Awards, and several other awards and nominations.

After her film debut in Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and a string of supporting film roles during the 1950s, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in The Miracle Worker (1962) as the teacher of teenage Helen Keller, reprising her role in the Broadway stage play. She won both an Oscar for her work in the film, and a Tony for the same role in the play. On Broadway in 1965, she played a medieval nun obsessed with a priest (Jason Robards) in John Whiting‘s play The Devils, based on the Aldous Huxley novel The Devils of Loudun. She was perhaps best known as the seductress, Mrs. Robinson, in The Graduate (1967), a role that she later said had come to overshadow her other work.

Bancroft received several other Oscar nominations and continued in lead roles until the late 1980s. She played a ballet dancer in The Turning Point (1977), and in Agnes of God (1985), she played the mother superior of a convent who clashes with a psychiatrist played by Jane Fonda over dealings with a troubled young novice nun played by Meg Tilly. In 1987, she starred with Anthony Hopkins in 84 Charing Cross Road. She appeared in several movies directed or produced by her second husband, comedian Mel Brooks, including the award-winning drama The Elephant Man as well as comedies To Be or Not to Be and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

In the 1990s she returned to supporting roles in films, but continued to play lead roles in television films. She received Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003), as well as an Emmy nomination for 2001’s Haven.

Early Life

Bancroft was born Anna Maria Louisa Italiano in the Bronx, New York, the middle of three daughters of Mildred (ne DiNapoli; 1908-2010), a telephone operator, and Michael G. Italiano (1905-2001), a dress pattern maker.

Bancroft’s parents were both children of Italian immigrants. In an interview, she stated her family was originally from Muro Lucano, in the province of Potenza. She was brought up Roman Catholic. She was raised in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, later moving to 1580 Zerega Ave. and graduated from Christopher Columbus High School in 1948. She later attended HB Studio, the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the Actors Studio and the American Film Institute‘s Directing Workshop for Women at the University of California, Los Angeles. After appearing in a number of live television dramas under the name Anne Marno, she was told to change her surname, as it was “too ethnic for movies”; she chose Bancroft “because it sounded dignified.”


In 1958, Bancroft made her Broadway debut as lovelorn, Bronx-accented Gittel Mosca opposite Henry Fonda (as the married man Gittel loves) in William Gibson‘s two-character play Two for the Seesaw, directed by Arthur Penn. For Gittel, she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

“Annie’s a very gutsy girl. I swear I wouldn’t hesitate to put her in at shortstop for the New York Yankees.”

Arthur Penn
director of The Miracle Worker

She won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play in 1960, again with playwright Gibson and director Penn, when she played Annie Sullivan, the young woman who teaches the child Helen Keller to communicate in The Miracle Worker. She appeared in the 1962 film version of the play and won the 1962 Academy Award for Best Actress, with Patty Duke repeating her own success as Keller alongside Bancroft. She had returned to Broadway to star in Mother Courage and Her Children, so Joan Crawford accepted Bancroft’s Oscar on her behalf, and later presented the award to her in New York.

Bancroft is one of nine actors to have won both an Academy Award and a Tony Award for the same role.

Bancroft co-starred as a medieval nun obsessed with a priest (Jason Robards) in the 1965 Broadway production of John Whiting‘s play The Devils. Produced by Alexander H. Cohen and directed by Michael Cacoyannis, it ran for 63 performances.

Bancroft with Patty Duke in the stage production of The Miracle Worker, 1960

Bancroft received a second Academy Award nomination in 1965 for her performance in the 1964 film The Pumpkin Eater.

Bancroft was widely known during this period for her role as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), for which she received a third Academy Award nomination. In the film, she played an unhappily married woman who seduces the son of her husband’s business partner, the much younger recent college graduate played by Dustin Hoffman. In the movie, Hoffman’s character later dates and falls in love with her daughter. Bancroft was ambivalent about her appearance in The Graduate; she said in several interviews that the role overshadowed her other work. Despite her character becoming an archetype of the “older woman” role, Bancroft was only six years older than Hoffman.

A CBS television special, Annie: the Women in the Life of a Man (1970), won Bancroft an Emmy Award for her singing and acting.

Bancroft is one of very few entertainers to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony award.

She followed that success with a second television special, Annie and The Hoods (1974), which was telecast on ABC and featured her husband Mel Brooks as a guest star. She made an uncredited cameo in the film Blazing Saddles (1974), directed by Brooks. She received a fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 1977 for her performance in The Turning Point (1977) opposite Shirley MacLaine, and a fifth nomination for Best Actress in 1985 for her performance in Agnes of God (1985) opposite Jane Fonda.

Bancroft made her debut as a screenwriter and director in Fatso (1980), in which she starred with Dom DeLuise.

Bancroft was the original choice to play Joan Crawford in the film Mommie Dearest (1981), but backed out, and was replaced by Faye Dunaway. She was also a front-runner for the role of Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment (1983), but declined so she could act in the remake of To Be or Not to Be (1983), with her husband Mel Brooks.In 1988 she played Harvey Feirstein’s mother in the film version of his play Torch Song Trilogy.

In the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s, Bancroft took supporting roles in a number of films in which she co-starred with major film stars including Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) with Nicolas Cage, Love Potion No. 9 (1992) with Sandra Bullock, Malice (1993) with Nicole Kidman, Point of No Return (1993) with Bridget Fonda, Home for the Holidays (1995) with Robert Downey Jr. and directed by Jodie Foster, How to Make an American Quilt (1995) with Winona Ryder, G.I. Jane (1997) with Demi Moore, Great Expectations (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow, Keeping the Faith (2000) with Ben Stiller, and Heartbreakers (2001) with Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sigourney Weaver and Gene Hackman. She also lent her voice to the animated film Antz (1998), which also featured performances from Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Stone, and Woody Allen.

Bancroft also starred in several television movies and miniseries, receiving six Emmy Award nominations (winning once for herself and shared for Annie, The Women in the Life of a Man), eight Golden Globe nominations (winning twice), and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Her final appearance was as herself in a 2004 episode of HBO‘s Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Her last project was the animated feature film Delgo, released posthumously in 2008. The film was dedicated to her.

She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6368 Hollywood Boulevard, for her work in television. At the time of her star’s installation (1960), she had recently appeared in several TV series. Bancroft is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1992.

Marriage and Family

Bancroft’s first husband was lawyer Martin May; they married in 1953, separated in 1955, and divorced in 1957.

In 1961, Bancroft met Mel Brooks at a rehearsal for the Perry Como variety show (Kraft Music Hall). Bancroft and Brooks married on August 5, 1964, at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau near New York City Hall, and remained married until her death. Their son, Maximillian “Max” Brooks, was born on May 22, 1972.

Bancroft and Mel Brooks worked together three times on the screen: once dancing a tango in Brooks’s Silent Movie (1976); in his remake of To Be or Not to Be (1983); and in the episode entitled “Opening Night” (2004) of the HBO show, Curb Your Enthusiasm. They were also in Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), but never appeared together. Brooks produced the film The Elephant Man (1980), in which Bancroft acted. He also was executive-producer for the film 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) in which she starred. Both Brooks and Bancroft appeared in season six of The Simpsons. According to the DVD commentary, when Bancroft came to record her lines for the episode “Fear of Flying“, the Simpsons writers asked if Brooks had come with her (which he had); she joked, “I can’t get rid of him!”

In a 2010 interview, Brooks credited Bancroft as being the guiding force behind his involvement in developing The Producers and Young Frankenstein for the musical theatre. In the same interview, he said of their first meeting in 1961, “From that day, until her death on June 5, 2005, we were glued together.”

In April 2005, two months before her death, Bancroft became a grandmother when her daughter-in-law Michelle gave birth to a boy, Henry Michael Brooks.


Anne Bancroft died of uterine cancer at age 73 on June 6, 2005, at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Her death surprised many, including some of her friends, as the intensely private Bancroft had not released details of her illness. She was survived by her mother, sisters, husband Mel Brooks, and son Max Brooks. She is interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, near her parents, Mildred (who died in April 2010, five years after Anne) and Michael Italiano. A white marble monument with a weeping angel adorns her grave. Her last film, Delgo, was dedicated to her memory.




1958Two for the SeesawTony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
1959Miracle Worker, TheThe Miracle WorkerTony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1963Mother Courage and Her Children 
1965Devils, TheThe Devils 
1967Little Foxes, TheThe Little Foxes 
1968Cry of Players, AA Cry of Players 
1977GoldaNominated Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
1981Duet for One 



1952Don’t Bother to KnockLyn Lesley 
1953Tonight We SingEmma Hurok 
1953Treasure of the Golden CondorMarie, Comtesse de St. Malo 
1953The Kid from Left FieldMarian Foley 
1954Gorilla at LargeLaverne Miller 
1954Demetrius and the GladiatorsPaula 
1954Raid, TheThe RaidKaty Bishop 
1955New York ConfidentialKatherine (Kathy) Lupo 
1955A Life in the BalanceMara Ibinia 
1955The Naked StreetRosalie Regalzyk 
1955Last Frontier, TheThe Last FrontierCorinna Marston 
1956Walk the Proud LandTianay 
1957NightfallMarie Gardner 
1957Restless Breed, TheThe Restless BreedAngelita 
1957Girl in Black Stockings, TheThe Girl in Black StockingsBeth Dixon 
1962Miracle Worker, TheThe Miracle WorkerAnne SullivanAcademy Award for Best Actress
BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
National Board of Review Award for Best Actress
San Sebastin International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance
1964Pumpkin Eater, TheThe Pumpkin EaterJo ArmitageBAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award
Nominated Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance
1965Slender Thread, TheThe Slender ThreadInga Dyson 
19667 WomenDr. D.R. Cartwright 
1967Graduate, TheThe GraduateMrs. RobinsonGolden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated Laurel Award for Top Female Dramatic Performance
1972Young WinstonJennie, Lady Randolph ChurchillNominated BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1974Blazing SaddlesExtra in Church CongregationUncredited
1975Prisoner of Second Avenue, TheThe Prisoner of Second AvenueEdna EdisonNominatedBAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1975Hindenburg, TheThe HindenburgCountess Ursula von Reugen 
1975Urban Living: Funny and FormidableHerselfshort
1976LipstickCarla Bondi 
1976Silent MovieHerself 
1977Turning Point, TheThe Turning PointEmma JacklinNational Board of Review Award for Best Actress
Nominated Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1977Jesus of NazarethMary MagdaleneMiniseries
1980FatsoAntoinetteAlso director and writer
Nominated Taormina International Film Festival Golden Charybdis Award
1980Elephant Man, TheThe Elephant ManMadge Kendal 
1983To Be or Not to BeAnna BronskiNominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1984Garbo TalksEstelle RolfeNominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1985Agnes of GodMother Miriam RuthNominated Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1986‘night, MotherThelma CatesNominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
198784 Charing Cross RoadHelene HanffBAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1988Torch Song TrilogyMa Beckoff 
1989Bert Rigby, You’re a FoolMeredith PerlesteinNominated Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress
1992Honeymoon in VegasBea Singer 
1992Love Potion No. 9Madame Ruth 
1993Point of No Return/The AssassinAmanda 
1993MaliceMrs. Kennsinger 
1993Mr. JonesDr. Catherine Holland 
1995How to Make an American QuiltGlady Joe ClearyNominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1995Home for the HolidaysAdele Larson 
1995Dracula: Dead and Loving ItMadame Ouspenskaya (Gypsy Woman) 
1996The SunchaserDr. Renata Baumbauer 
1997G.I. JaneSen. Lillian DeHaven 
1997Critical CareNun 
1998Great ExpectationsMrs. Dinsmoor 
1998Mark Twain’s America in 3DNarratordocumentary
2000Up at the VillaPrincess San Ferdinando 
2000Keeping the FaithRuth Schram 
2001HeartbreakersGloria Vogal / Barbara 
2001In Search of PeaceGolda MeirVoice, documentary
2008DelgoSedessaVoice, (final film role)


1951Suspense TV series, one episode: “Night Break”, as Anne Marno.
1951The Ford Theatre Hour TV series, three episodes, as Anna Marno.
1950-51Studio One in HollywoodMaria CassiniTV series, three episodes, as Anne Marno.
1951The Adventures of Ellery Queen TV series, one episode: “The Chinese Mummer Mystery”, as Anne Marno.
1951Danger TV series, two episodes: “The Killer Scarf” and “Murderer’s Face”, as Anne Marno.
1951The Web TV series, one episode: “The Customs of the Country” as Ann Marno.
1951Lights OutHelenTV series, one episode: “The Deal”, as Anne Marno.
1953Omnibus TV series, one episode: “The Capital of the World”
1953Kraft Theatre TV series, one episode: “To Live in Peace”
1954-1957Lux Video TheatreLolita/Sally/Kendal Browning/Ann Sommers/HerselfTV series, five episodes
1956-57Climax!Audrey/ElenaTV series, two episodes: “Fear Is the Hunter” (Audrey) and “The Mad Bomber” (Elena)
1957Playhouse 90Isobel Waring/Julie BickfordTV series, two episodes: “So Soon to Die” (Isobel Waring) and “Invitation to a Gunfighter” (Julie Bickford)
1957Dick Powell’s Zane Grey TheatreIsabelle RutledgeTV series, one episode: “Episode in Darkness” (Isabelle Rutledge) w/Dewey Martin & John Anderson
1957The Alcoa HourAlegre/GiselleTV series, two episodes: “Key Largo” (Alegre) and “Hostages to Fortune” (Giselle)
1958The Frank Sinatra ShowCarol WellesTV series, one episode: “A Time to Cry”
1960Person to PersonHerselfTV series documentary, Episode 7.35
1960Gala Adlai on BroadwayHerself: PerformerTV Movie
1962Password All-StarsHerselfTV series, one episode: “Anne Bancroft vs. Robert Goulet”
1962-1964What’s My Line?Herself: Mystery GuestTV series, three episodes
1964Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreFaye Benet GarretTV series, one episode: “Out on the Outskirts of Town”
1967ABC Stage 67VirginiaTV series, one episode: “I’m Getting Married”
1969The Kraft Music HallHerselfTV series, Episode 2.23
1970Arthur Penn, 1922-: Themes and Variants TV documentary
1970This Is Tom JonesHerselfTV series documentary, Episode 3.1
1970Annie: The Women in the Life of a Man Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety or Musical Program – Variety and Popular Music
1974Annie and the HoodsHerself: HostessTV Movie
1977Jesus of NazarethMary MagdaleneMiniseries; Parts 1 and 2
1978The Stars Salute Israel at 30HerselfTV Movie
1978LrdagshjrnetHerselfTV series, one episode: “Mel Brooks”, also archive footage
1978Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of ColorHerselfTV series, one episode: “Mickey’s 50”
1978Mickey’s 50Herselfdocumentary
1979The Muppets Go HollywoodHerselfTV Movie, uncredited
1980ShogunNarrator of US home video version (voice)TV movie
1982Marco PoloMarco’s motherMiniseries
1982Women I Love: Beautiful But FunnyHerselfTV Movie
1983An Audience with Mel BrooksHerselfTV special
1990Freddie and MaxMaxine (Max) ChandlerTV series, six episodes
1992Broadway BoundKate JeromeTV movie
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1992Mrs. CageLillian CageNominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1994Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells AllLucy Marsden (age 99-100)TV movie
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1994Great PerformancesMrs. FanningTV series, one episode: “Paddy Chayefsky’s ‘The Mother'”
1994Simpsons, TheThe SimpsonsDr. ZweigVoice role, one episode: “Fear of Flying
1996HomecomingAbigail TillermanTV Movie
Nominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
1998The Secret World of ‘AntzHerselfTV documentary
1998Living with Cancer: A Message of HopeNarratorTV documentary
1999Deep in My HeartGeraldine ‘Gerry’ Eileen CumminsTV movie
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1999AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Dustin HoffmanHerselfTV special documentary
2000The Rosie O’Donnell ShowHerself 
2000The Living EdensNarratorTV series documentary, one episode: “Anamalai: India’s Elephant Mountain”
2001Exhale with Candice BergenHerselfTV series, one episode
2001HavenMama GruberNominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
2003Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, TheThe Roman Spring of Mrs. StoneContessaTV movie
Nominated Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
2004Curb Your EnthusiasmHerselfTV series, one episode: “Opening Night”