Monday, May 2, 2011

Remember Her?

     I was at a church rummage sale this past weekend and came across a videotape of an old movie that reminded me of this woman. I didn't buy the tape -- who has a tape deck anymore? -- but I wonder if you can guess who she is. Don't scroll down and cheat!

     The woman was born in The Bronx in 1931. Her given name was Anna Maria Louisa Italiano. She graduated from high school in 1948 and went to the Actors Studio in New York, and later to the American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women at UCLA.

     She appeared in several early television shows under the name Anna Marno, then changed her name again when she made her film debut in a 1952 movie called Don't Bother to Knock, a thriller starring Richard Widmark and Marilyn Monroe.

As a young actress
     She was unimpressed with the studio system that ruled Hollywood in the early 1950s, so she moved back to New York to appear opposite Henry Fonda in a play called Two for the Seesaw. For her role as Gittel Mosca, who falls in love with Fonda's character, she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

     Her big break came in 1960 with the role of Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher in the play The Miracle Worker. Two years later she reprised the role in the movie version, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress, beating out several high-powered stars of the time including Katharine Hepburn.

     A few years later she received a second Academy Award Best Actress nomination for her performance in the Pumpkin Eater, a film based on a British drama with Peter Finch playing her philandering husband. But this time she lost out to Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins.

     Her most famous role came in 1967 when she took on a part as a family friend and "older woman," for which she received a third Oscar nomination for Best Actress. This time she lost to the woman she beat in 1960, Katharine Hepburn, who played the mother in the groundbreaking race-relations movie Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

     In the meantime, she met comedian Mel Brooks backstage at the Perry Como Show. The two stars got married in 1964, and in a rare instance of a long-running Hollywood union, they stayed married for 41 years, until she died in 2005. They had one son, Max Brooks, who became a writer on Saturday Night Live and has published several books involving Zombies, apparently (although I do not keep up on the Zombie literature) from both a dramatic and humorous point of view. Max, a 1994 graduate of Pitzer College, in Claremont, Ca., will give the keynote speech at this year's Pitzer commencement ceremony on May 14.

     The old movie I saw at the rummage sale was, of course, The Graduate. And the person I'm thinking of is Anne Bancroft, who at age 36 played the iconic role of Mrs. Robinson, the neighbor who seduced Benjamin Braddock, played by 30-year-old Dustin Hoffman, in this quintessential Baby Boomer movie.

In The Graduate, 1967
     Just as an interesting footnote, The Graduate was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Anne Bancroft for Best Actress, Dustin Hoffman for Best Actor, Katharine Ross for Best Supporting Actress. But the movie garnered only one win:  Mike Nichols as Best Director.


June said...

Wow, wasn't she just beautiful? ...all her life?
The Graduate was, somehow, a defining movie for my friends and me.

"I have one word for you."
"Yes, sir?"
"One word."
"Yes sir."

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me."

"Here she is, having a nice glass of water."

And that shot of her all in leopard, shows her giving The Death Look to Benjamin as he pounded on the glass above the wedding ceremony.
"Elaine! Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!"

rosaria said...

I do remember her! A very smart, very attractive and talented actress. said...

I knew it was Anne Bancroft, one of my favorite actresses. And married to that crazy commedian who made Springtime for Hitler.

Terry said...

I do remember her and thinking it was crazy that Dustin Hoffman was only 3 years younger! I just started my own midlife blog, you can find me at:


Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

I loved everything Anne Bancroft did. She was one of my favorite actresses and I'll never forget seeing her performance on stage and screen in "The Miracle Worker" and, of course, "The Graduate" was truly memorable. I was in college when it came out and my friends Marie, Jeanne and I sat through it twice! But it really was crazy -- and typical of Hollywood's attitude toward women -- to cast a beautiful 36-year-old woman as the cougar who seduced the callow young man, played by an actor only a few years younger!