Anne Bancroft may have smoldered on the big screen as the wildly seductive and much older Mrs. Robinson, but she didnâ€™t want to be typecast as an adulteress.
The Oscar-winning actress, who died in 2005 at age 73 from uterine cancer, is the subject of a recent book published by journalist Douglass K. Daniel titled â€œAnne Bancroft: A Life.â€�
Daniel interviewed numerous friends and colleagues who worked closely with the star over the years. And while her husband, Mel Brooks, and their son declined to participate, the two reportedly didnâ€™t object to Danielâ€™s reporting.
Bancroft, already a seasoned actress by 1967, starred in â€œThe Graduateâ€� alongside a then-unknown actor named Dustin Hoffman.
â€œAs the producer of that film said in later years, they could get her at a price, meaning she wasnâ€™t going to be expensive,â€� Daniel told Fox News. â€œShe didnâ€™t have the star power and salary of, say Elizabeth Taylor. But, she was a solid actress.
“If you look at the list [of potential actresses] that was kicked aroundâ€¦ youâ€™ll see she was probably the youngest of the bunch. Others were more of the age of the character. Actresses who were in their 40s and even early 50sâ€¦ Anne was only 35 when they filmed that movie, and she was playing easily 45.â€�
â€œThe Graduateâ€� tells the story of a disillusioned college graduate (Hoffman), who finds himself torn between his older lover (Bancroft) and her daughter.
Producer Lawrence Turman had a star-studded wish list of actresses he believed could have taken on Mrs. Robinson. Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner were just a few of the many actresses he considered.
And there was no denying Bancroftâ€™s charisma.
â€œHer beauty was panned down by makeup and the way she was filmed,â€� said Daniel. â€œShe appeared a little harsher, especially in her early scenes. But she was able to carry throughâ€¦ especially with that inner pain Mrs. Robinson felt as you get to know the character.
“And thatâ€™s the sort of thing Anne Bancroft easily excelled inâ€¦ Most guys from that era would tell you. [Mrs. Robinson] was hot, she was desirable and just the kind of fantasy a younger man would have…â€�
Daniel added that despite their titillating scenes, Bancroft and Hoffman didnâ€™t share much of an off-screen interaction. And being a sex symbol like Mrs. Robinson wasnâ€™t always easy.
â€œThe role certainly called [for nudity],â€� said Daniel. â€œAnne said she was prepared to do it, but when the day came, she just realized she couldnâ€™t. They got a body double to take care of that. So that was the case where it sounded good on paper, but when the day came, the idea of standing there naked on a set in front of everybody â€” she couldnâ€™t quite bring herself to do it.â€�
Bancroft was barely 21 when she arrived to Hollywood from The Bronx with her first movie contract and first appeared in 1952â€™s â€œDonâ€™t Bother to Knockâ€� opposite Marilyn Monroe.Â
“The Graduate” was a triumphant move for the actress.
â€œShe was paid $200,000, which was good money,â€� said Daniel. â€œThatâ€™s like $1.5 million today. She got a leading roleâ€¦ And the movie did so well that it reminded everybody what a good actress she was.â€�
Still, Mrs. Robinson wasnâ€™t always a blessing for Bancroft. Daniel claimed she was in danger of being typecast. Both fans and critics also couldnâ€™t stop talking about the film over the years.
â€œShe wasnâ€™t interested in playing Mrs. Robinson again in other movies,â€� explained Daniel. â€œSo she stayed away from those kinds of roles. She also found that people always wanted to talk about Mrs. Robinson. She got kind of tired over the years because she did a lot of good roles, but Mrs. Robinson hovered over everything because she did it so well and the movie was so popular.â€�
Daniel claimed it wasnâ€™t until Bancroft was in her 60s when she finally came to terms with the character.
â€œOne of the directors she worked with after she turned 60 told me she saw the movie for the first time to see how she looked,â€� said Daniel. â€œAnd she said, â€˜I thought I looked beautiful.â€™ I think thatâ€™s how she remembered the role. It was a time in her life when she looked the most alluringâ€¦ And I think thatâ€™s how she looked back at â€˜The Graduateâ€™ from that day on.â€�
One thing that did give Bancroft joy throughout her life was her relationship with Brooks. The two married in 1964 and the union lasted until her death.
â€œPeople told me their love was the real dealâ€¦ [And] as much as we want to see them as an odd couple â€” sheâ€™s a dramatic actress and he a comedy writer â€” they shared a love of laughter,â€� said Daniel. â€œThey were both also divorcedâ€¦ They were a little older, a little more mature when they metâ€¦ And they both had a better understanding of what it took to make a marriage work. That odd couple wasnâ€™t so opposite after all.â€�
Brooks also made sure to stay by his belovedâ€™s side while she privately battled cancer.
â€œShe had been dealing with cancer for a long time,â€� claimed Daniel. â€œShe had her first brush with cancer around 1980â€¦ She kept it very quiet. Some of their closest friends didnâ€™t know about itâ€¦ It was also a matter of career. People have to be very careful about illnesses being out there because you wonâ€™t get hired if people know youâ€™re sick.
“Youâ€™re sinking millions of dollars on a productionâ€¦ Keeping it quiet made sense from a professional viewâ€¦ [But] she dealt with cancer on and off over the years.â€�
And Bancroft kept working. Her last credited role before her death was that of herself in â€œCurb Your Enthusiasmâ€� in 2004.
â€œOne of her colleagues told me she was quick to anger, she was quick to laughter â€” she had her emotions very much on the surface,â€� said Daniel. â€œAnd that made her a great actress. She responded to things emotionally, whether it was in her acting or in her life. And that made her very memorable to those who knew and loved her.â€�