Friday, June 10, 2005

Anne Bancroft

ANNE BANCROFT | 1931-2005

Versatile, but forever 'Mrs. Robinson'

She won an Oscar and a Tony for "Miracle Worker," among many laurels, but
seductress in "The Graduate" was her signature role.

By Myrna Oliver, LA Times Staff Writer

Anne Bancroft, the versatile, husky-voiced actress who won an Academy Award for portraying Helen Keller's teacher in "The Miracle Worker" but will forever be remembered as the coldly seductive Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate," has died. She was 73.

Bancroft died Monday night of uterine cancer at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, John Barlow, spokesman for Bancroft's husband, entertainer Mel Brooks, announced Tuesday.

An actress of uncommon versatility, Bancroft collected one Oscar, two Tonys, two Golden Globes, an Emmy and in 1996 a lifetime achievement comedy award in a career spanning more than half a century.

Bancroft earned a Tony and an Academy Award for best actress in "The Miracle Worker" as Annie Sullivan, the willful and determined half-blind teacher of Patty Duke's blind and deaf Keller. The Broadway and motion picture versions of William Gibson's play established Bancroft as a multifaceted actress with deep talent.

Duke, who was 12 when she began working with Bancroft, was in tears Tuesday as she told The Times: "I don't know if we'll ever see the particular likes of her again.. I am blessed to have ever been in her presence. I am devastated.. But she leaves us with that great, throaty rasp and that wicked sense of humor."

Arthur Penn, director of the stage and screen versions of "The Miracle Worker," called Bancroft "a magnificent actress, a woman of rich, rich emotion and great humor."

Dustin Hoffman, who played the callow post-collegiate youth to Bancroft's world-weary Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate," said Tuesday that he could not think of her in the past tense.

"She was one of the most alive people I ever met," he told The Times. "Such exuberance, and she had this laugh in her that filled her from head to toe. I can see her, see her laughing right now."

Mike Nichols, who directed "The Graduate," called Bancroft a masterful performer and said in a statement Tuesday, "Her combination of brains, humor, frankness and sense were unlike any other artist. Her beauty was constantly shifting with her roles, and because she was a consummate actress, she changed radically for every part."

Bancroft was nominated for Academy Awards for four more films - "The Pumpkin Eater" in 1964; "The Turning Point" in 1977; "Agnes of God" in 1985; and her most popular, "The Graduate" in 1967. She collected Golden Globes for "The Pumpkin Eater" and "The Graduate." There were also many nominations for other awards.

For several generations of film fans and moviegoers, mere mention of "The Graduate" immediately conjures up memories of Simon & Garfunkel's tuneful phrases: "And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, Jesus loves you more than you will know.."

Although she was playing a woman old enough to be his mother, Bancroft was 35 and Hoffman was 30 when they filmed the movie.

The Pumpkin Eater has several scenes filmed in London.