Anne Bancroft Before and After Mrs. Robinson

Sep. 11, 2017
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Although she earned a solid reputation in theater and worked in 52 films, several hits among them, Anne Bancroft stands out in many minds for one role in particular. In The Graduate (1967), she played Mrs. Robinson, the sexy and predatory older woman opposite Dustin Hoffman’s innocent 20something.

“Staying in touch with that underlying sense of anger and sadness in Mrs. Robinson was crucial for Anne’s performance,” writes Douglass K. Daniel in his biography, Anne Bancroft: A Life (University Press of Kentucky). Mrs. Robinson was aware that her “outer life as the married woman of affluence was empty as the affair she initiated with Hoffman’s Benjamin.” The Graduate “set new standards for adult material in an American film,” Daniel adds. The movie won an Oscar and was a gust of fresh air in an industry that had gone stale.

Daniel capably chronicles Bancroft’s life, giving more attention to some of her stage plays than many of her movies. Much space is devoted to her unlikely love story—a successful marriage and occasional collaboration with Mel Brooks that lasted from 1964 through her death in 2005. Asked in 2014 about his greatest accomplishment, Brooks replied: “Marrying Anne Bancroft.”

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