How ‘The Graduate’ star Anne Bancroft avoided being typecast as Mrs. Robinson

The american actress Anne Bancroft (1931 – 2005), in the role of the seductive older woman Mrs. Robinson, looks at the American actor Dustin Hoffman, as Benjamin Braddock, in a publicity still from the film “The Graduate” directed by Mike Nichols, California, 1967.


Anne Bancroft may smoldered on the big screen as the wild, seductive and much older Mrs. Robinson, but she didn’t want to typecast as an adulteress.

The Oscar-winning actress, who died in 2005 at age 73 of uterine cancer, is the subject of a recent book published by journalist Douglass K. Daniel with the title “Anne Bancroft: A Life.”


Daniel interviewed numerous friends and colleagues who worked closely with the star in the course of the years. And while her husband, Mel Brooks, and their son refused to take part, the two, which allegedly do not object to Daniel of the reporting.

Bancroft, already a seasoned actress in 1967, played in “The Graduate” alongside a then-unknown actor named Dustin Hoffman.

“As the producer of the film said in later years, she could get her at a price, which means that they do not have to be expensive,” Daniel told Fox News. “They are not the stars of the power and the salary of say, Elizabeth Taylor. But, she was a solid actress.

“If you look at the list [of potential actresses] that was kicked around… you can see she was probably the youngest of the bunch. Others were more of the age of the character. Actresses in the ’40s and even early 50s… Anne was 35 when she filmed that movie, and she was playing on the easy 45.”

“The Graduate” tells the story of a disillusioned college graduate (Hoffman), who is torn between his older lover (Bancroft) and her daughter.

As a star in Hollywood in the early 1950s, Anne posed for publicity photos that emphasized her figure.

(Thanks to JoAnne Italiano Perna)

Producer Lawrence Turman had a star-studded wish list of actresses he believed might have on Mrs. Robinson. Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner were just a few of the many actresses he is considered to be.

Even Doris Day made the cut, but her husband and manager Martin Melcher, reportedly thought that the plot was too dirty for America’s Sweetheart.

And there was no doubt Bancroft charisma.

“Her beauty was panned down by make-up and the way it was filmed,” said Daniel. “She seemed a little bit harder, especially in her early scenes. But she was able to carry through… especially with that inner pain Mrs. Robinson felt if you get to know the character.

“And that is the kind of thing Anne Bancroft easily excelled in… Most boys of that time would tell you. [Mrs. Robinson] was hot, she was desirable and what is fantasy a younger man would have…”

Daniel added that, despite their provocative scenes, Bancroft, and Hoffman is not much of an off-screen interaction. And as a sex symbol such as Mrs Robinson was not always easy.

On the set of the Broadway play “Two for the Seesaw,” Anne is in character as the mad Gittel Mosca.

(Thanks to JoAnne Italiano Perna)

“The role certainly called [naked],” said Daniel. “Anne said that she was willing to do, but when the day came, she realized that she could not. They got a body double to ensure. So that was the case, where it sounded good on paper, but when the day came, the idea was standing there naked in front of everyone — she couldn’t quite bring himself to do it.”

Bancroft was barely 21 when she got to Hollywood in The Bronx for her first film contract and appeared for the first time in 1952, the “Don’ t Bother to Knock” opposite Marilyn Monroe.

“The Graduate” was a triumphant move for the actress.

“She was paid $200,000, which was good money,” said Daniel. “That is about $1.5 million today. She got a leading role… And the film did it so well that it reminded everyone what a good actress she was.”

Still, Mrs. Robinson was not always a blessing for Bancroft. Daniel claimed that she was in danger of being typecast. Both fans and critics could not stop talking about the film over the years.

“She was not interested in the play of Mrs. Robinson again in other films,” said Daniel. “So they stayed away from that kind of roles. She also found that people always wanted to talk about Mrs. Robinson. She got a kind of fatigue over the years because they do a lot of good roles, but Mrs. Robinson floated above it all, because she did it so well and the movie was so popular.”

Daniel claimed it was not until Bancroft was in the ‘ 60s when they finally came to terms with the character.

Actor Mel Brooks and his wife actress Anne Bancroft arrive for the premiere of the musical he created, “The Producers” May 29, 2003 in Hollywood.


“One of the directors she worked after they turned 60 told me that she saw the film for the first time to see how they looked,” said Daniel. “And she said,” I thought I looked beautiful.’ I think that is how she remembered the role. It was a time in her life when she looked the most seductive… And I think that is how they looked back at ‘The Graduate’ from that day on.”

One thing that gave Bancroft joy in her life was her relationship with Brooks. The two were married in 1964, and the union lasted until her death.

“People have told me their love was the real deal… [And] as much as we want to see them as an odd couple — she is a dramatic actress and he is a comedy from writer — they shared a love of laughter,” said Daniel. “They were both separated… They were a little bit older, a bit more mature when they met each other… And they both had a better understanding of what it took to make a marriage work. The strange couple was not so opposite.”

Brooks also surely continue through his beloved while they private battle against cancer.

“She had been dealing with cancer for a long time,” claimed Daniel. “She had her first brush with cancer around 1980… They kept it very quiet. Some of their closest friends don’t know… It was also a matter of career. People should be very careful about the diseases is there because you are not hired if people know that you’re sick.

“You’re sinking millions of dollars on a production… Keeping the quiet feel of a professional view… [But] they dealt with cancer on and off over the years.”

The seventeen-year-old Anne Italiano on the roof of her family’s apartment building on the St. Raymond Avenue in the Bronx, circa 1948.

(Thanks to JoAnne Italiano Perna)

And Bancroft continued to work. Her last credited role before her death was that of himself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2004.

“One of her colleagues told me that they get angry very fast, she was quick to laugh — she had her emotions very much on the surface,” said Daniel. “And that made her a great actress. They 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.”

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