Anne Bancroft
September 17, 1931 - June 6, 2005

Although Anne Bancroft may be best known as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967), there are two roles I will always remember her for.

One is Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (1962), who struggled in teaching the blind and deaf Helen Keller. The difficulties for the partially blind teacher were presented unflinchingly, from finger-spelling to table manners. The scene when Annie constantly tried to keep Helen in her seat at the dining room table proved just that. Annie's efforts truly paid off when she took Keller outside to refill a pitcher of water, where Keller was able to understand and recognize the word "water" after getting wet, and said the word with sign language.

Out of all the roles she portrayed, the one that I will remember the most is a fallen woman whose life is changed by the other miracle worker, the Son of God. That fallen woman was Mary Magdalene in the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. Among the best moments is her final scene when she tells Jesus' disciples she had witnessed His resurrection. When her claims were dismissed as women's fantasies, she perfectly shot back with "Was His death a fantasy? I saw him die!" before leaving in frustration.

It may seem surprising she had been married to Mel Brooks, considering she was a serious actress and he was a comedic director/actor. Even more astounding was they had been married for more than 40 years, something that is not heard too often in the entertainment industry. One of my favorite anecdotes was when Brooks called Bancroft his Obi-Wan Kenobi for encouraging him to turn his film The Producers (1968) into a hit Broadway musical, which in turn was adapted to the big screen in late 2005. The Force may have been with Brooks in Spaceballs (1987) but, in a sense, it was with him off-screen with the help of Anne.

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, here's to you, Anne Bancroft.

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With husband and co-star Mel Brooks in To Be or Not To Be (1983)

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