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Anne Bancroft
Anne Bancroft 1952.jpg
Studio publicity photograph, c. 1952
Anna Maria Louisa Italiano

(1931-09-17)September 17, 1931
New York City, U.S.
Died June 6, 2005(2005-06-06) (aged 73)
New York City, U.S.
Resting place Kensico Cemetery
Other names Ann(e) Marno
Occupation Actress
Years active 1951–2005
  • Martin May
    (m. 1953; div. 1957)
  • (m. 1964)
Children Max Brooks

Anne Bancroft (born Anna Maria Louisa Italiano; September 17, 1931 – June 6, 2005) was an American actress. Respected for her acting prowess and versatility, Bancroft received an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Tony Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Cannes Film Festival Award. She is one of only 24 thespians to achieve the Triple Crown of Acting.

Associated with the method acting technique, having studied under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, Bancroft made her film debut in the noir thriller Don't Bother to Knock in 1952, and then appeared in 14 other films over the following five years. In 1958 Bancroft made her Broadway debut with the play Two for the Seesaw, winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. The following year she portrayed Anne Sullivan in the original Broadway production of The Miracle Worker, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play. Following her continued success on stage, Bancroft's film career was revived when she was cast in the acclaimed film adaptation of The Miracle Worker (1962) for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her film career further progressed with Oscar nominated performances in The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Graduate (1967), The Turning Point (1977), and Agnes of God (1985).

Bancroft continued to act in the later half of her life, with prominent roles in The Elephant Man (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Garbo Talks (1984), 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), Torch Song Trilogy (1988), Home for the Holidays (1995), G.I. Jane (1997), Great Expectations (1998), and Up at the Villa (2000). She received multiple Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including for the television films Broadway Bound (1992), Deep in My Heart (1999), for which she won, and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (2003). Bancroft died on June 6, 2005, at the age of 73, as a result of uterine cancer. She was married to director, actor, and writer Mel Brooks, with whom she had a son named Max.

Early life

Bancroft was born Anna Maria Louisa (or Luisa) Italiano on September 17, 1931, in the Bronx, New York City, the middle of three daughters of Mildred (née Di Napoli), a telephone operator, and Michael G. Italiano, a dress pattern maker. Her parents were Italian immigrants from Southern Italy. In an interview, she stated that her family was originally from Muro Lucano, in the province of Potenza. She was of Roman Catholic faith.

Bancroft was raised in Little Italy, in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, attended P.S. 12, later moving to 1580 Zerega Ave. and graduating 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, including Studio One and The Goldbergs under the name Anne Marno, later, at Darryl Zanuck's insistence, she chose the less Mediterranean surname of Bancroft "because it sounded dignified".


Bancroft made her screen debut with a major role in the 1952 Marilyn Monroe vehicle Don't Bother to Knock. She appeared in 14 films over the next five years, including Treasure of the Golden Condor (1953), Gorilla at Large (1954), Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954), New York Confidential (1955) and Walk the Proud Land (1956). In 1957, Bancroft was directed by Jacques Tourneur in a David Goodis adaptation, Nightfall. In 1958, she 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 this role, she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

Anne Bancroft Patty Duke Miracle Worker 1 1960
Bancroft (left) with Patty Duke in the stage production of The Miracle Worker, 1960

Bancroft 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. Because Bancroft had returned to Broadway to star in Mother Courage and Her Children, Joan Crawford accepted the Oscar on her behalf and later presented the award to her in New York.

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 received a second Academy Award nomination for her performance in The Pumpkin Eater (1964).

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. Bancroft was ambivalent about her appearance in The Graduate; she said in several interviews that the role overshadowed her other work.

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 was also a serious candidate to play Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist, but the filmmakers rejected her request to postpone the film’s shoot due to her being pregnant with her son Max.

Anne Bancroft Chrysler Theatre 1964
Bancroft in the television show Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, 1964

Bancroft is one of ten actors to have won both an Academy Award and a Tony Award for the same role (as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker), and one of very few entertainers to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony award. This rare achievement is also known as the Triple Crown of Acting. 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 for her performance in The Turning Point (1977), and a fifth nomination for Best Actress for her performance in Agnes of God (1985).

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 that she could act in the remake of To Be or Not to Be (1983) with Brooks. In 1988, she played Harvey Fierstein's mother in the film version of his play Torch Song Trilogy.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Bancroft took supporting roles in a number of films in which she co-starred with major film stars, including Honeymoon in Vegas (1992), Love Potion No. 9 (1992), Malice (1993), Point of No Return (1993), Home for the Holidays (1995), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), G.I. Jane (1997), Great Expectations (1998), Keeping the Faith (2000), Up at the Villa (2000) and Heartbreakers (2001). She also lent her voice to the animated film Antz (1998).

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.

Bancroft's last appearance was as herself in a 2004 episode of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. She was cast in Spanglish (2004) later that year, but had to bow out due to a medical emergency. Her last project was the animated feature film Delgo, released posthumously in 2008. The film was dedicated to her.

Bancroft 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 in 1960, she had recently appeared in several TV series. Bancroft was also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 1992.

Personal life

Mel Brooks Anne Bancroft 1991
Bancroft with husband Mel Brooks at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival

Bancroft's first husband was lawyer Martin May, of Lubbock, Texas; they married on July 1, 1953, separated in November 1955 and divorced on February 13, 1957. She had previously been engaged to actor John Ericson in 1951.

In 1961, Bancroft met Mel Brooks at a rehearsal for Perry Como's 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, Max Brooks, was born in 1972.

Bancroft worked with her husband three times on the screen: 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. The couple also appeared in Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), but never appeared together. Brooks produced the film The Elephant Man (1980), in which Bancroft acted. He was executive producer for the film 84 Charing Cross Road (1987) in which she starred. Both Brooks and Bancroft appeared in Season 6 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 theater. In the same interview, he said of their first meeting in 1961, "From that day, until her death on June 6, 2005, we were glued together."

Bancroft's son, Max Brooks, said in a 2020 interview that she was "a secret, closet scientist". He said that, as a child, she read to him Paul de Kruif's "Microbe Hunters" (1926) as a bedtime story.

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


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 disclosed any details of her illness. Her body was interred at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York, near her parents, Mildred (who died in April 2010, five years after Anne) and Michael Italiano. Her final film, Delgo, was dedicated to her memory.




Year Title Role Notes
1952 Don't Bother to Knock Lyn Lesley
1953 Tonight We Sing Emma Hurok
1953 Treasure of the Golden Condor Marie, Comtesse de St. Malo
1953 The Kid from Left Field Marian Foley
1954 Gorilla at Large Laverne Miller
1954 Demetrius and the Gladiators Paula
1954 Raid, TheThe Raid Katy Bishop
1955 New York Confidential Katherine (Kathy) Lupo
1955 A Life in the Balance María Ibinia
1955 The Naked Street Rosalie Regalzyk
1955 Last Frontier, TheThe Last Frontier Corinna Marston
1956 Walk the Proud Land Tianay
1956 Nightfall Marie Gardner
1957 Restless Breed, TheThe Restless Breed Angelita
1957 Girl in Black Stockings, TheThe Girl in Black Stockings Beth Dixon
1962 Miracle Worker, TheThe Miracle Worker Anne Sullivan
1964 Pumpkin Eater, TheThe Pumpkin Eater Jo Armitage
1965 Slender Thread, TheThe Slender Thread Inga Dyson
1966 7 Women Dr. D.R. Cartwright
1967 Graduate, TheThe Graduate Mrs. Robinson
1972 Young Winston Lady Randolph Churchill
1974 Blazing Saddles Extra in Church Congregation Uncredited
1975 Prisoner of Second Avenue, TheThe Prisoner of Second Avenue Edna Edison
1975 Hindenburg, TheThe Hindenburg Countess Ursula von Reugen
1975 Urban Living: Funny and Formidable Herself Short film
1976 Lipstick Carla Bondi
1976 Silent Movie Herself
1976 The August None Short film
Director, writer, and editor
1977 Turning Point, TheThe Turning Point Emma Jacklin
1980 Fatso Antoinette Also director and writer
1980 Elephant Man, TheThe Elephant Man Madge Kendal
1983 To Be or Not to Be Anna Bronski
1984 Garbo Talks Estelle Rolfe
1985 Agnes of God Mother Miriam Ruth
1986 'night, Mother Thelma Cates
1987 84 Charing Cross Road Helene Hanff
1988 Torch Song Trilogy Ma Beckoff
1989 Bert Rigby, You're a Fool Meredith Perlestein
1992 Honeymoon in Vegas Bea Singer
1992 Love Potion No. 9 Madame Ruth
1993 Point of No Return Amanda
1993 Malice Mrs. Kennsinger
1993 Mr. Jones Dr. Catherine Holland
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Glady Joe Cleary
1995 Home for the Holidays Adele Larson
1995 Dracula: Dead and Loving It Madame Ouspenskaya / Gypsy Woman
1996 The Sunchaser Dr. Renata Baumbauer
1997 G.I. Jane Sen. Lillian DeHaven
1997 Critical Care Nun
1998 Great Expectations Mrs. Dinsmoor
1998 Mark Twain's America in 3D Narrator Documentary film
1998 Antz Queen Ant (voice)
2000 Up at the Villa Princess San Ferdinando
2000 Keeping the Faith Ruth Schram
2001 Heartbreakers Gloria Vogal / Barbara
2001 In Search of Peace Golda Meir (voice) Documentary film
2008 Delgo Empress Sedessa (voice) Posthumous release


Year Title Role Notes
1951 Suspense Unknown Episode: "Night Break"
1951 The Ford Theatre Hour Unknown 3 episodes
1950–1951 Studio One in Hollywood Maria Cassini 3 episodes
1951 The Adventures of Ellery Queen Unknown Episode: "The Chinese Mummer Mystery"
1951 Danger Gangster's Moll / Heidi Episodes: "The Killer Scarf" and "Murderer's Face"
1951 The Web Unknown Episode: "The Customs of the Country"
1951 Lights Out Helen Episode: "The Deal"
1951 The Goldbergs Joyce Episode: "Mother-in-Law"
1953 Omnibus Paco's Sister Episode: "The Capital of the World"
1953 Kraft Television Theatre Unknown Episode: "To Live in Peace"
1954–1957 Lux Video Theatre Various roles 5 episodes
1956–1957 Climax! Audrey / Elena Episodes: "Fear Is the Hunter" and "The Mad Bomber"
1957 Playhouse 90 Isobel Waring / Julie Bickford Episodes: "So Soon to Die" and "Invitation to a Gunfighter"
1957 Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre Isabelle Rutledge Episode: "Episode in Darkness"
1957 The Alcoa Hour Alegre / Giselle Episodes: "Key Largo" and "Hostages to Fortune"
1958 The Frank Sinatra Show Carol Welles Episode: "A Time to Cry"
1960 Person to Person Herself Episode: "7.35"
1960 Gala Adlai on Broadway Herself / Performer Television film
1962 Password All-Stars Herself Episode: "Anne Bancroft vs. Robert Goulet"
1962–1964 What's My Line? Herself / Mystery Guest 3 episodes
1964 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Faye Benet Garret Episode: "Out on the Outskirts of Town"
1967 ABC Stage 67 Virginia Episode: "I'm Getting Married"
1969 The Kraft Music Hall Herself Episode: "2.23"
1970 Arthur Penn, 1922–: Themes and Variants Herself Television documentary film
1970 This Is Tom Jones Herself Episode: "3.1"
1970 Annie: The Women in the Life of a Man Herself Television special
1974 Annie and the Hoods Herself / Host Television film
1977 Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene Miniseries
1978 The Stars Salute Israel at 30 Herself Television film
1978 Lørdagshjørnet Herself Episode: "Mel Brooks"
1978 The Wonderful World of Disney Herself Episode: "Mickey's 50"
1979 The Muppets Go Hollywood Herself Television special; uncredited
1980 Shogun Narrator (voice) Miniseries; US version
1982 Marco Polo Marco's mother Miniseries
1982 Bob Hope's Women I Love: Beautiful, But Funny Herself Television special
1983 An Audience with Mel Brooks Herself Television special
1990 Freddie and Max Maxine "Max" Chandler 6 episodes
1992 Broadway Bound Kate Jerome Television film
1992 Mrs. Cage Lillian Cage Television film
1994 Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All Lucy Marsden (age 99–100) Television film
1994 Great Performances Mrs. Fanning Episode: "Paddy Chayefsky's 'The Mother'"
1994 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Dr. Zweig (voice) Episode: "Fear of Flying"
1996 Homecoming Abigail Tillerman Television film
1998 The Secret World of 'Antz' Herself Television documentary film
1998 Living with Cancer: A Message of Hope Narrator Television documentary film
1999 Deep in My Heart Geraldine "Gerry" Eileen Cummins Television film
1999 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Dustin Hoffman Herself Television special
2000 The Rosie O'Donnell Show Herself Episode: "5 May 2000"
2000 The Living Edens Narrator (voice) Episode: "Anamalai: India's Elephant Mountain"
2001 Exhale with Candice Bergen Herself Episode: "16 November 2001"
2001 Haven Mama Gruber Television film
2003 Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, TheThe Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Contessa Television film
2004 Curb Your Enthusiasm Herself Episode: "Opening Night"



Year Title Role Venue Notes
1958 Two for the Seesaw Gittel Mosca Booth Theatre
1959 Miracle Worker, TheThe Miracle Worker Annie Sullivan Playhouse Theatre
1963 Mother Courage and Her Children Mother Courage Martin Beck Theatre
1965 Devils, TheThe Devils Sister Jean of the Angels Broadway Theatre
1967 Little Foxes, TheThe Little Foxes Regina Giddens Ethel Barrymore Theatre
1968 Cry of Players, AA Cry of Players Anne Vivian Beaumont Theatre
1977 Golda Golda Meir Morosco Theatre
1981 Duet for One Stephanie Abrahams Royale Theatre
2002 Occupant Louise Nevelson Peter Norton Space Off-Broadway

Awards and nominations

Year Association Category Work Result
1958 12th Tony Awards Best Featured Actress in a Play Two for the Seesaw Won
1959 14th Tony Awards Best Actress in a Play The Miracle Worker Won
1963 35th Academy Awards Best Actress The Miracle Worker Won
16th British Academy Film Awards Best Foreign Actress Won
18th National Board of Review Awards Best Actress Won
10th Silver Shell Awards Best Actress Won
20th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
13th Laurel Awards Top Female Dramatic Performance Nominated
1965 37th Academy Awards Best Actress The Pumpkin Eater Nominated
18th British Academy Film Awards Best Foreign Actress Won
22nd Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Won
17th Cannes Film Festival Awards Best Actress Won
15th Laurel Awards Top Female Dramatic Performance Nominated
1968 40th Academy Awards Best Actress The Graduate Nominated
25th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical Won
18th Laurel Awards Top Female Dramatic Performance Nominated
1969 22nd British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
1970 22nd Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Variety or Musical Program – Variety and Popular Music Annie: The Women in the Life of a Man Won
1973 26th British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Young Winston Nominated
1976 29th British Academy Film Awards The Prisoner of Second Avenue Nominated
1978 50th Academy Awards Best Actress The Turning Point Nominated
33rd National Board of Review Awards Won
35th Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
32nd British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated
32nd Tony Awards Best Actress in a Play Golda Nominated
1980 Taormina Film Festival Golden Charybdis Award Fatso Nominated
1984 41st Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical To Be or Not to Be Nominated
1985 42nd Golden Globe Awards Garbo Talks Nominated
1986 58th Academy Awards Best Actress Agnes of God Nominated
43rd Golden Globe Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated
1987 44th Golden Globe Awards 'night, Mother Nominated
1988 41st British Academy Film Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role 84 Charing Cross Road Won
1990 10th Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Supporting Actress Bert Rigby, You're a Fool Nominated
1992 44th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie Broadway Bound Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie Mrs. Cage Nominated
1994 46th Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or Movie Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All Nominated
1996 2nd Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture How to Make an American Quilt Nominated
1997 3rd Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Homecoming Nominated
1999 51st Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie Deep in My Heart Won
2001 53rd Primetime Emmy Awards Haven Nominated
2003 55th Primetime Emmy Awards The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Nominated
2004 10th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Nominated

See also

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