Anne Bancroft: FAnne Stories

Anne Bancroft



Anne Bancroft: FAnne Stories

Your help is needed for this page. How and when did you become a FAnne? Did you ever get a chance to meet or to work with Anne? Do you have any stories, odd coincidences, or crazy dreams about her, to share? If you have any stories at all about Anne, please write to me at sysop @ and share them with the only people on the planet who will appreciate them... fellow FAnnes!

(To help separate dreams from reality, the dreams are highlighted.)

From Una Kennedy: Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, my dad moonlighted as a limousine driver in NYC. His territory was the theater district and it was not unusual for him to give rides to famous people like Anne Bancroft or Joe Cocker or Tony Randall. Eventually, due to his charm, these very people would ask for him specifically. Miss Bancroft even insisted upon sitting up front with him and called him “Eddie.”

From Gordie Little (click to read the original column in full, it's quite nice): After the show, I found [Jack] Paar and asked for an autograph. He was less than gracious but complied. I located his orchestra director, Jose Millis, who was delighted to autograph the jokes. Then I spotted Anne Bancroft in a hallway and she greeted me with a warm smile that remained her trademark until she died at 73 in 2005. I melted when she acted as though we were old friends. Unlike the others who hurried from the building, Bancroft stopped and chatted with me for what seemed like 20 minutes. She was humble and gracious and grateful for the success she had achieved. She encouraged me to pursue my dream of a radio career. And, yes, she did sign her name for me on the joke sheets. I keep them as treasures in my River Room and in my heart.

It has been said of Anne Bancroft that she was not only a fine actress, but a "real" person. I never quite knew what a "real" person was until I met her that night. I have never forgotten the brief encounter and followed her illustrious career until cancer claimed her life. I spotted an anonymous post on a website after her death and saved it: "She was one of those rare women that started out beautiful and just kept getting more attractive with age. She was one of the great ones. We miss you, Anne." My sentiments exactly.

From the blog Gooseberry Bush: I was flying back from the Albuquerque airport to Dallas when my mother spotted Anne Bancroft in the same terminal where I was waiting for my flight to board. The next thing I know, my mom, who’s actually super shy, walks right over to Anne Bancroft, shakes her hand, and tells her what a great actress she thinks she is and thanks her for her performances. Ms. Bancroft, in turn, thanks my mom, and she goes on her merry way. The astounding thing about this is that my brother and I are seeing that, since they were married in real life, there was Mel Brooks in the same airport.

My mom comes back, and my brother and I say, in unison, “That was Mel Brooks!”

And my mom says, just as sweetly as you please, “Yes. I saw him. I don’t like him.”

From Luann: Here's how good Bancroft is.

I was doing a home visit for an invalid; the TV was on with no sound. I came in about halfway through the movie and watched 'til the end. I had no idea what was happening, yet I was mesmerized by Anne Bancroft's performance, so much so that I had to look it up at imdb and see what it was (The Pumpkin Eater)! The scene at the end was exquisite, because I could still tell a reconciliation was taking place, with no words spoken, only facial expressions, and the tiniest smile and nod from Peter Finch's character, and the look of relief and happiness on Bancroft's.

I can't wait to find it somewhere so I can see the entire movie -- with dialogue!!

From Terry in Austin: William Gibson and his wife Margaret Brenman had an indoor swimming pool/greenhouse I used to help take care of when I lived in Massachusetts.

Arthur Penn lived just down the road, and Margaret and Anne Bancroft were chums. One of the plants in the greenhouse was an avocado that Margaret called "the Anne Bancroft tree." Seems that when Ms. Bancroft had been trying in vain to get pregnant, Margaret suggested she plant the avocado seed left over from their brunch together, as a kind of fertility charm. She did, and very soon after, well, she did. She later donated the tree to Margaret's indoor jungle, not having much of a green thumb herself.

It was in 1973 when I worked for the Gibsons, so Anne's son would have been 1 or 2 at the time. The tree was about three feet high then.

Interesting item: Once I worked with Anne Bancroft on a show, many years ago in LA. After a matinee, Anne asked me, "Where can an Anne Bancroft and a Mel Brooks go for dinner around here?" I said, "...what?" Louder and with emphasis this time, "Where can an Anne Bancroft and a Mel Brooks go for dinner around here?" I said, "Are you asking me where you and your husband can have quiet dinner?" Her exasperated reply, "Yes!" I sent them off to the local restaurant owned by those few who understand stars. I thought at the time, "they live on some other plane." I look back. I laugh.

Ken Sofronski: My brother was quite the lady’s man. He was as cute as a button and he was ever so charming. At that time he was dating Miss America and then later on, Anne Bancroft no less while she was in The Miracle Worker on Broadway. One night Anne was giving a lecture at the HB Studio, where she kept apologizing because she never had to struggle. After the lecture the three of us went back to her apartment and she was so impressed that I didn’t know what Smirnoff Vodka was. “How innocent can you be,” she said.

Max Brooks, talking about the audiobooks for WWZ and Zombie Survival Guide: "I'm not just a fan of audiobooks; audiobooks probably saved my education. I am very, very dyslexic. I could not have gotten through high school had my mother not taken all my textbooks and brought them to the Braille Institute... and had all my books transcribed onto audiotape. So for me, audiobooks are really, really important, and that's why I wanted to be part of it. It's a really critical part of my life."

Marc Flanagan: A few years after seeing Mel's first film and prior to "Blazing Saddles,” I met Mel on New York's Fire Island. I was staying there for a weekend in September, and my hostess just happened to mention that Mel and Anne Bancroft had a summer place down the beach. I extracted the necessary info from her and proceeded to haunt the place for the balance of the weekend.

The Brooks' beach house was on pilings, so you could walk under it, and when you emerged your head was level with the Funnyman's deck. After several attempts, I despaired of every seeing my comic idol but tried once more. I popped up head-high to his decking, and there he was with his wife Anne reading the paper (so brazen, I was young and so I was ... stupid).

I was shocked to actually see them sitting there. Mel greeted me with a curious tone. I immediately started gabbing at high speed about how I was a recent graduate of the Yale School of Drama and that one of my teachers, Mildred Dunnock, had told me that she knew the two of you and that if I were ever to meet them to say that I was a friend of Millie's and to please be kind. And they were.

I decided after two or three minutes that I had already taken enough of their time and I excused myself. They certainly could have called the Fire Island Police (I think they have police there) or told me to beat it, but they were so very gracious and Mel was of course funny and every time he made me laugh, Anne would look over at him and then over to me and smile the most endearing smile.

A fanne writes of an interesting dream: I don't remember when I have had such a vibrant and realistic dream. I was teaching at a school that I didn't recognize and AB came to visit me. We were sitting in the office area. Some jerk (didn't recognize him) kept asking me to do secretarial type stuff for him. I got fed up with the interruptions and said, "I have a very important visitor in my office and you need to leave me alone so I can visit with her!" She and I were just sitting at a table drinking coffee and making small talk like we were old friends. She kept smiling that broad smile at me and I noticed how large her eyes were. Her makeup was impeccable and her hair looked like a million bucks.

Then out of the blue, my former boss (also deceased) pulled up a chair and sat down with us. They were both giving me a pep talk and encouraging me, but I can't remember what about. The three of us talked for awhile, but I was just transfixed by AB. I said, "I saw Mel do a funny bit in a movie recently" and we laughed and laughed and talked about what a funny guy he is. Then I said, "How about that Max?" She just beamed when I said that. Then I made the mistake of saying, "I want to come to California." AB said, "You mean to visit me?" I said, "Yes!" She looked at me intensely and said, "You know that isn't possible...." Then I woke up.

A beautiful story from a true fanne, Vera B.: My daughter, Jenifer, bought me front row tickets to see Anne in Occupant. It was one of the best birthday presents she ever gave me. I was in heaven from the moment Anne stepped on stage, and even though I don't remember anything about the play, it was one of the most enjoyable nights I ever spent in a theater. There she was -- someone I'd idolized since childhood -- and I could almost reach out and touch her!!!

During the play, a woman in the audience had a persistent cough. At one point, when Anne was delivering one of her monologues, the coughing was so bad that the woman got up, presumably to get some water. Anne stepped to the front of the stage, looked at the woman, and said, "It's about time. Go get some water or something." I think Jenifer and I laughed the loudest.

After the play, we were waiting for her to come out. Let me tell you, it was pretty cold that night. We waited... waited... finally, an usher came out to tell us that "Miss Bancroft is not leaving, so you might as well go home." No surprise, everyone else was gone, but Jen, me and one other fan were left. I have never, ever done this before, but I actually started pleading with the usher to please let us in, even to just catch a glimpse of Anne. He said he'd see what he could do.

Not even a minute passed, and he came out to say that we could go inside and Miss Bancroft would see us separately. I immediately started shaking. And I'm telling my daughter all the things I was going to say: how much she meant to me as an Italian-American, how much I respected the fact that she never "went Hollywood," how much I loved her work, and on and on.

And there she was.

And I was dumbstruck. She was so beautiful, and so natural, and so friendly. I froze in my tracks, and my daughter just pushed me a little, muttering, "Ma, come on." Everything I planned to say went to some mental graveyard, and all I could manage was, "Quanto sei bella." And I don't even speak Italian!! She got such a kick out of this, and said, "No, tu sei bella." After that my daughter took over and told Anne all the things I was planning to say while I stood there grinning like a real idiot. And Anne just chatted away with Jenifer, all the while holding my hand. I managed to tell her how funny it was when she scolded the coughing woman, and she said, "I noticed you got a kick out of that. You were in the front row, right?" That was it; I was blown away after that. Anne Bancroft noticed ME!! I wanted to stay there all night, as you can well imagine, but my daughter finally said, "Thank you so much, you don't know what this meant to my mother." And Anne said, "The pleasure was mine." I hugged her and we were gone.

Her movie, Fatso, was the most realistic depiction of an Italian-American family I've ever seen, and it just proves once again that critics don't have a clue. And God, was it funny. In our family, the true test of a movie is how many times we repeat the lines. "Get the honey, Junior," "You don't know how to run your plate," "He ate the O-ny," "You love bread; I like bread," "The DiNapoli Brothers-Ba Badda Ba Da." I lost count how many times we've used these lines.

When Anne died, the first one to tell me was my mother, who heard it on the news. The next day, a few of my friends called to say they thought of me when they heard that Anne had died.

She was a beautiful, funny, talented, gracious woman who was everything I thought she would be and more. No one will ever reach the heights she did and remain as down to earth and human as she. She was one of a kind and I'll treasure our one and only meeting for the rest of my life. The irony is that she was so devoid of pretension that she'd probably hate all these tributes and homage, but it feels so good to have a place to share these feelings.

A recent brief dream: I am sitting at an outdoor movie set, am unsure of the location. Film crew moving around, doing their jobs. It's sunny and a bit chilly. I'm sitting cross-legged on the ground. Suddenly, Anne comes around the corner, dressed a bit wacky, something along the lines of Helene Hanff, a long dress, sweater, tennis shoes, crocheted beret. She has some crochet work in her hands and asks to sit next to me. Of course she may sit next to me. As she crochets, she explains that sometimes she just likes to dress casually because she doesn't care to have the constant expectation of glamour at every turn. I'm quietly thinking that she looks glamorous in her shabby clothes, for cryin' out loud. The woman cannot NOT look glamorous. Then I wake up.

From A.G. Britton, daughter of Estelle Parsons: That 1967 summer, mother was at the Berkshire Theater Festival, because she wanted very much to work with director Arthur Penn (Bonnie & Clyde). I remember the time well because of the smell of the warm grassy fields and because my dog Scamper had five puppies. And because Anne Bancroft (The Miracle Worker) and I had sat across from each other in the actor’s bunkhouse, telling each other ridiculous jokes and laughing until our faces hurt.

From Dan C.: In 2002, I bought a ticket to a preview of Edward Albee’s Occupant, a play about the sculptor Louise Nevelson. I try to see any new Albee play, but I was particularly excited for this one because Anne Bancroft was playing the leading role; she hadn’t been on stage in New York for a number of years, so this was a kind of homecoming. Occupant is minor Albee, too tied to biographical details, and the audience was restless throughout, but Bancroft was in total control from the moment she walked out, her eyes twinkling behind sable eyelashes. Her style of acting was often too big for movies, especially as she got older, but in the theater her every outsized gesture commanded the space, and she had a seemingly total belief in what she was doing. Toward the end, as she did a lengthy monologue, a woman in the audience got up to leave. Suddenly, Bancroft dropped her grand, declaiming character and looked out at the woman. “Darling, you’re leaving?” she asked, in the purest Bronx accent. “Please, dear, please, I’m almost finished! Gimme a shot, would ya?” The woman continued out the door, as the audience laughed, and Bancroft shrugged, then instantly went back into her speech, as focused as ever.

From Robert Stein: This is Anne Bancroft Day on TCM, and they are showing her in movies ranging from Anne Sullivan, the determined teacher of deaf-and-blind Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” to the boozy Mrs. Robinson seducing Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.”

Before those triumphs, there was an unforgettable lunch with the young actress born Anna Maria Italiano in the Bronx. When we met at an elegant Park Avenue hotel in Manhattan soon after she won a Tony as the free-spirited Gittel in “Two for the Seesaw,” she confided she was too shy to sit in the crowded dining room.

An understanding maitre d’ took us to the far end of a huge, darkened main room that was closed for lunch and had a waiter serve us there.

She ordered a shrimp cocktail but when it arrived, the little fork was nowhere in sight. She apologized profusely for sending the waiter off on a long walk to find one but, as he was reentering the room, she gasped, “Oh my God” after finding a cocktail fork in the folds of the tablecloth.

Without hesitation, she slipped it into her bra and gave the waiter a dazzling smile of thanks as he set down the new one.

After becoming instant co-conspirators, we had a lively talk about growing up poor and ambitious in an outer borough and, for years afterward, I envied Mel Brooks who a few years later would bribe someone to find out where she was having dinner and show up to woo and wed her for a 40-year-marriage that couldn’t possibly had had a dull moment.

From Rita O: I saw Anne Bancroft for the first time on stage in Philadelphia on opening night of "The Miracle Worker" before it went to New York. We were in the third row, right stage and "the fight scene" was one of the most dynamic theatrical experiences of my life. Thank God that wonderful, transcendent performance was captured on film.

From Mar Vista Mom: Once when my son Charlie was a baby, Anne Bancroft made googly eyes, coo'ed, and generally behaved in a very grandmotherly way toward him as we passed each other in a hallway. She told my son he "was such a handsome young man, yes he was!" in a cute, baby-talk voice. It was quite adorable.

Yet another recent dream: One of those dreams that feels completely real to all of your senses. I visited the tiny stage where (in the dream) The Miracle Worker first premiered. It was almost like a strip mall shop, so tiny, just a little stage and maybe 5 rows of 10 seats for the audience. The stage walls and stage itself were black. They said they'd kept it exactly as it had been in the late 50s, they had not touched it since AB performed there, they kept it as a museum or a shrine. I kept walking around the stage, looking at the walls and ceiling, thinking of how her voice reverberated there, imagining the scenes from TMW. They had a few props from the play against the back of the stage wall. It felt so amazing to be there. (Note: it was sort of amusing to wake up and read about the efforts to save Provincetown Playhouse, where Anne performed early in her career!)

From fanne Hedy B.: I have loved Anne ever since I read about her in Patty Duke's book, Call Me Anna. From Patty's description in that book I thought she seemed like such a warm, generous person. That was the first thing that impressed me about her. Then I saw The Graduate and I realized how amazingly talented she was.

I think all this had such an effect on me because I was in high school at the time. I did not have very many friends and my best friend had just moved to Germany. I was a bit lonely and depressed, but renting Anne's movies on the weekends gave me something to look forward to. Its strange because that somehow seemed to give me the emotional boost I needed and I actually started making friends at school.

My senior year of high school, my drama teacher found out how much I admired Anne and suggested that I write to her. So I did.

The day after my high school graduation I recieved a stunning photo of her in the mail. In the corner of the photo she had signed it: "To Hedy, With deep appreciation for your kind words. Anne Bancroft". I think I was on an emotional high for months after that.

I always wished that I could have met her. But while it saddens me that I will never have that opportunity, I am just so glad that she existed.

Anne's letter to Candice Azzara while finishing up work on Fatso:

Dear Candy:

My dearest actress, I think of you every day with such joy. You are one of the high spots of "Fatso".

I thank you for all your remembrances, and if you're ever on the lot please give me a call - I'm in the cutting room, ext. 1146.

I've put together the first four scenes and I love them. We usually show some of the cut footage on Friday afternoons and since you've not entered the film yet you might like to see some of the work that has been done, but I would also understand if you didn't want to see it.

I loved your commitment to the role of Lydia along with your ability to concentrate. No one in the world could have played that part and met my vision of it as well as you. You are truly blessed.

Love. Anne Bancroft

Candice says: "Anne Bancroft really blessed me with a great starring role in her movie Fatso. It was a spiritual experience for me. She was so generous and dedicated to the truth."

From Nathan Lane of "The Producers," talking about Anne & Mel (June 2006): He’s still in great pain. And she was — they both were — but she was in particular the cheerleader for this show. I mean, she’s the one who really told him, “Go upstairs and start writing the songs.” And she was there through the whole process: for the first reading, for the rehearsals. My favorite thing she ever said about him was when Charlie Rose was interviewing her. Everyone would sort of ask that question about “What do you attribute the longevity of this relationship?” And she said, “Look, we’re like any other couple. We have our ups and downs.” But she said, “Every time I hear the key in the door, I know the party’s about to start.”

From Gary Beach, who played Roger DeBris in "The Producers":
One of Beach's fondest memories of The Producers was getting to know the late Mrs. Mel Brooks. "I really felt like I had made it when Anne Bancroft knew my name. 'Gary.' Oh, my God, that's Anne Bancroft saying my name! She had a total idea of who she was and an awareness of her effect on other people — which is a nice thing to have. A lot of people who are in that position either don't know or don't care. She was totally aware. That was sort of wonderful!"

From Leonard Maltin: Anne Bancroft helped present our Career Achievement award to Arthur Penn, who directed her so memorably in The Miracle Worker, on stage and screen, as well as the Broadway production of Two for the Seesaw. As she headed toward the podium, her husband, Mel Brooks, shouted, “Mention me!”

From Patty McCormick's Pieces of an American Quilt: Anne Bancroft had quilted before. During the making of the movie 84 Charing Cross Road someone from the crew had taught her hand quilting, so she was not new to the techniques I was teaching. She caught on quickly. Her character was making the House block, so I concentrated on appliqué stitching with her.

Early in the filming schedule she came to me and asked if I had any fabric in a particular shade of rusty orange. She was wearing a long silk coat and had torn the corner of the front hem. She wanted to use her new appliqué skills and stitch a patch over the tear before it tore any more.... Anne rummaged through the box and found just the perfect scrap, which she expertly appliquéd over the tear. Admiring her work, we both commented on how it sort of looked like an orange tree. Next thing I knew she had gone back to the scrap box and found just the perfect scrap of green. Now there was green under the tree. Then there were clouds in the sky; then a moon; then a little house next to the tree, a chimney with smoke, and windows and a door. Next came a walkway. Then Josh from the art department had to design a car to put in the driveway and I'm stopping at the fabric store to find the perfect silver for the bumper.

Click on the thumbnail for a close-up

This project took us through several long days of work, and sewing together made us friends. We would talk about our families (we're both the eldest of three girls and both our husbands have an affinity for wine collecting) and our plans for the holidays. Last time I saw the coat, she was planning the New York skyline to go along the back hem and considering a beach scene for the other front. By the end of the movie she told me she had bought a second coat with the intention of sewing houses on it.

During one of our afternoon sewing sessions, I asked about the quilt she made before. She told me she had never finished it, and that it was in a plastic bag on a closet shelf. She had developed tennis elbow while working on the quilt and thought the quilting had been the cause of her pain, so she put it away. She agreed to bring it to the studio so I could see it. It was wonderful, and almost finished! It was approximately twin-size, a white-on-white quilt. The quilting design was her front yard. It had palm trees and artichoke plants and lots of bushes and flowers, and the quilting template was still in the bottom of the bag. I watched her quilt in a hoop and couldn't figure out how she could possibly develop tennis elbow, when she admitted she was also playing a lot of tennis at that time. I offered to help. It seemed so appropriate for her to finish her project, while we were working on the movie....

I am a big proponent of giving unfinished projects life rather than letting them die in a plastic bag on a closet shelf. The first thing that needed to be done was to remark the part of the quilt that wasn't quilted. Having the original template made it easy and I quickly did this over a weekend. Then Anne quilted it. Remember, this is white-on-white and you cannot believe how dirty studios are, so she did a lot of the quilting in her trailer between scenes. When that was done, I sewed the binding on for her. She did a great job and proudly keeps the quilt (once destined for obscurity on the closet shelf) on her guest bed.

A dream: It seems that I was in California for a short time. Anne had invited me to stay at her house overnight, and it was the first time I had ever visited it. I went snooping through her dressing room, makeup and closet and was shocked to see that she really didn't have many clothes. Then she asked me to help her set the table for an important dinner Mel was having for some studio execs. She said I could sit in on the dinner as long as I didn't act bored or restless. I don't recall specifics, but I wasn't bored at all, and I remember eating lots of brightly colored vegetables. Later, snooping a bit more, I went down yet another hallway and found a massive closet filled to overflowing with her clothes, and I remember thinking, "Ah, this is more like it." -- LF

From Nadine: My grandfather (78) has loved Ms. Bancroft for years and was heartbroken when she passed on. She was his favorite actress and he had a huge crush on her. Well, on to the story... my father's cousin, Colleen, was in a hotel in LA a couple of years back with her very young son, Riley. A woman said, "Oh, look at the beautiful baby! I want to pinch his cheeks!" When she looked up it was Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks!

Thank you for your beautiful tribute for such a talented actress.

From Stephen K. Peebles, former PR person at Rhino Records:
In 1994, as national PR guy for Rhino Records, it was my great fortune to hatch and execute the media campaign for a four-CD boxed set collecting Mel and Carl Reiner's classic "2000 Year Old Man" comedy albums.

We had so much fun that three years later, when Mel and Carl recorded "The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000," their first new album since the '70s, they asked for me to be assigned to do PR for their project. By then I'd moved on to overseeing the company's first Web site, but it was an honor to be asked, and there was no way I was going to say no.

Mel and Carl did a few days of media on behalf of the CD and its related book, published at the same time. This involved setting up interviews with all the major radio and TV entertainment and talk shows in Hollywood, booking a limo, and schlepping the stars from interview to interview.

Many of the interviewers knew Mel and Anne were married, for more than 30 years by 1997, and thought it remarkable for two reasons: they were so different, at least as far as the public could tell; and its longevity.

Most observers thought Anne and Mel were an odd couple, because her public image was one of refinement and culture; his was the opposite. They didn't really know how down-to-earth she really was, or how classy Mel could actually be.

Mel loved all this; when the press asked him about Anne, he responded much like he was still on his honeymoon. He'd tell the story of the first time he met her, when she was a big Broadway star and he hadn't yet made his first movie. How he had bribed her personal assistant to get her schedule for the next several days, so he could be there every time she showed up. She found him irresistible. Everyone loved this story: it was so romantic, yet quintessentially Mel and Anne.

On two occasions, Anne accompanied Mel and Carl on a couple of interviews, and we had a chance to meet her, and see how they were together. They were almost like a couple of kids.

Anne accompanied Mel and Carl to the Rhino HQ in West Los Angeles for an online chat with computers set up in a conference room at Rhino. It was Mel and Carl's first such cyber-interview and probably the third I'd produced, so it was still new and exciting.

Each guy had a designated keyboardist to type in his answers. Anne sat right between the two workstations, where she could see both screens, fascinated by the idea of an Internet interview session, and how the technology worked. She was as enthusiastic about it as Carl and Mel.

courtesy John Hagelston/Rhino

The other interview was at the Westwood One Radio Network studios in Culver City, where a decade earlier I had toiled as a program writer and producer. It was around dinnertime, and I walked into the old workspace with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Anne Bancroft and my wife Nadine in tow. It was a moment.

Brooks and Reiner loved doing radio; they could bust into their 2000 YOM bits without being in costume. While I was in the studio with Mel and Carl during the interview, Nadine and Anne sat together on a bench in the control room, watching us through the glass wall. My wife is not a celebrity, yet it made no difference to Anne. They were having as much fun as the boys, and could laugh out loud because they weren't miked. I had to stifle myself in the studio while the mikes were live.

It was another moment, seeing my wife joking around with an American icon. But Anne wasn't being a Miracle Worker. She wasn't playing Mrs. Robinson. She was just being herself: genuine, warm and quick to laugh with her crazy husband and his best friend Carl.

Here's to you, Ms. Bancroft.

From David March, projectionist at the Mary Pickford Theater in D.C.: Hollywood lost one of its great leading ladies when Anne Bancroft passed away on June 6. “If any of you are grieving,” husband Mel Brooks joked at her memorial service, “keep it to yourself!” Let’s respect Mel’s wishes and pay tribute to wife Anne’s distinguished career with this pleasant remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1942 comedy. Question: why To Be or Not To Be, which critics find far inferior to the original and is certainly not considered to be one of the actress’ more memorable films? Answer: when I worked as a projectionist in West Los Angeles during the 1990’s, it was not uncommon for me to observe Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks (often accompanied by Carl and Estelle Reiner) on a weekend date at the movies, sharing popcorn, laughing, and seemingly reveling in each other’s company. Indeed, “despite the fact that it was described as a match of opposites, her marriage to Mel Brooks, who she wed in 1964, was regarded as one of the most enduring between Hollywood celebrities” (IMDB obituary), a fact obvious to me up in the projection booth many years ago. Thus, I don’t think Mrs. Brooks will mind if I choose to remember her singing and dancing and joking and falling in love onscreen with her husband of 41 years… And besides, shouldn’t singing “Sweet Georgia Brown” in Polish be regarded as one of her greatest cinematic feats?

A dream: Anne was interviewed in People magazine about a movie she had directed. It seemed that the purpose of the article was to point out everything she had done wrong -- very negative piece. Also, while filming The Graduate, Anne & Dustin were sitting in the sports car. She was wearing a maroon outfit and a fedora. Suddenly, the action was interrupted when a baseball sailed in all the way from Yankee Stadium and hit some of the crew. No one was seriously injured, and Anne just laughed it off.
-- LF

From Jody H.: One night several months ago I was working on my family tree and just for kicks I looked up the Italiano family on the 1930 census. I found them and get this – there was a Kaminsky family living in the same building! Ironic, huh? It listed Millie, Michael and JoAnne – obviously Anne wasn’t born yet.

One classic exchange from Oscar history came in the 1992 ceremony, when Anne and Dustin Hoffman co-presented the Screenplay awards, via satellite from somewhere. Ad libbing, the 55-year-old Hoffman asked, "Are you trying to seduce me?" Ad libbing right back, the 61-year-old Bancroft quipped, "Not anymore."

Olney in Maryland: My mother and I were staying at the St. Regis Grand in Rome (part of a swank tour) in May 2002. We were tired from all the site seeing, and not hungry enough for one more 4 course dinner, so we decided to have a light evening meal at the lobby bar. In walked an "older" woman in the most BEAUTIFUL black cocktail suit I had ever seen! All I could do was stare! She was 100 percent elegant, really breath-taking. It was the actress, Anne Bancroft, in town making a movie. She was with a half dozen people who were supposed to entertain her, but she seemed as tired as we felt.

From Jodi's dream: I became friends with Meg Ryan and we had to attend the funeral of a small Jewish child who had died from some terrible illness. Anne Bancroft was there and we got a terrible case of the giggles. I know... at a funeral... of a child for pete's sake. I didn't say we didn't feel bad.

"He did a lot of stuff growing up that was funny," Mel Brooks once recalled of his son (comedy writer Max Brooks), "but he didn't intend it to be funny. When he was 15, we were having a dinner party [with several other Jews], and he came down in a Nazi storm-trooper uniform [for his junior prom]. Everyone else wore a tuxedo, and he wore an SS uniform... We were shocked. Everyone at the dinner party thought, God, the kid's crazy. But my wife [Anne Bancroft] was good. She said, 'You know, Max... We'll have to take the shoulders in a little bit.'"

From an interview with Dustin Hoffman: Not too many months later, Dustin and his bride, Anne, sat tensely at the Oscar ceremonies, immediately behind Anne Bancroft, another “Graduate” nominee, and her husband Mel Brooks.

“Nobody knew who Mel was, except for a few of us, though I think Mel wanted to be known,” Dustin says, grinning. “Every time some foreigner got up to accept an award and struggled to say something polite in English, Mel would turn around in his seat and say to everyone sitting behind him, ‘That guy’s a whacko!’ Then Annie would poke him and push him down in his seat and try to shush him. It was a bona-fide scene from 'Virginia Woolf.'"

From an interview with Dom DeLuise: There were five writers on "Blazing Saddles", but Mel is nuts. He just puts on a suit and a tie and acts like a normal person so people think he's okay. He's definitely out in left field and his mind -- you know, he's crazy! But he's got the ambition of a boy, and that's what's so wonderful about him. He wants to get it right.

I've seen him sing Bing Crosby songs all night long. He will sing Bing Crosby in 1932, Bing Crosby in 1945 and Bing Crosby in 1965. I'm telling you, the man loves to sing.

He does John Garfield always with the same words. You know him twenty years and it is hysterical each time. Anne Bancroft just loves him and laughs her head off! They're the best together.

From Barbara S., July 2000: I've seen many celebrities at my favorite restaurant in Bronxville, New York. The restaurant is Pane e Vino Ristorante and I've seen Mel Brooks & Anne Bancroft there many times (about once a month). When I finally got up the nerve to say hi they were amazingly friendly. I have had the pleasure of chatting with them several times. They are a wonderful, warm and charming couple (and of course always funny). Anyone in the Bronxville area (25 min. north of mid-Manhattan in Westchester County) might want to stop in this wonderful Italian restaurant.

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft once owned movie theatres on the west coast. "I bought it from Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. They opened it up in 1979 as a Mexican movie theatre. They owned movie theatres up and down California. It was great. It was wonderful. If you would have seen it, it was just fantastic. The line used to be down the corner just to get into the parking lot."

Read the original story here.

Forever version is here.

A dream: I am set to join the touring company for the stage version of "The Turning Point," although I am not a ballet dancer. I first attend a performance to see how the show is done. Anne has directed the show in addition to performing her role as Emma. Afterwards, at the cast party, Anne tells me she hopes I'm prepared to work: she rehearses the cast for 14 hours, then they break for 4 hours, then they rehearse for 12 hours, then break for 2, then rehearse for 9 hours, followed by a one hour break. The breaks have to include sleeping. Next, I'm traveling to the first rehearsal in a car with 2 other new cast members. We're in the back seat and Shirley MacLaine is driving. Anne's mother is in the front passenger seat. We newbies are in charge of Anne's and Shirley's stuff, which is piled high in our laps and at our feet. I keep reaching up front to turn down the radio, because I'm certain that Anne's mother is not interested in listening to loud rock music, and I want to be respectful. Then I wake up.
-- LF

Joy Behar spoke on "The View" about sharing dinner with Anne and Mel. She said it was one of her dreams to visit with them. Joy asked Anne where she preferred to live (as in NYC vs. LA, since they had homes in both cities), and Anne replied, "Anywhere Mel Brooks is."

April 2003, San Francisco: Apparently recommended by fellow jazz fans, Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft were at the last day of music at Pearl's on Easter Sunday. They arrived at around 4:30, stayed a couple of hours, left (perhaps to get a snack), then returned and were still there at midnight. Fellow jazz fans were aware that they were there but didn't bother them.

"It was such a shame -- when I was nominated for my first Oscar for The Miracle Worker, I was in a play, Mother Courage, here in the city and I couldn't go out to Hollywood. So they asked me who I would like to receive my Academy Award if I won. I said I'd like one of the greats like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis, somebody like that. But I didn't know that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were having a feud. Obviously lots of people did, but I didn't. So the fact that Bette Davis was also nominated meant she couldn't pick up my Oscar, so they got Joan Crawford to pick it up. And I won and Joan Crawford walked out on stage and picked up the Oscar and there was Bette Davis so angry at Joan Crawford and me!"

Later when Bancroft met Davis, it was not the thrill she had thought it would be. Instead she got the silent treatment.

"When I met her, she at first thought I was someone else -- I forget who she thought I was -- and when I told her, 'I'm sorry Ms. Davis but I'm not her, I'm Anne Bancroft,' she looked at me and walked away."

From an interview with stage manager Renee Lutz: I did "Occupant" with Anne Bancroft. That was great fun. And she, of course, is married to Mel Brooks. Mel came every night, and kissed everyone. He's a very normal person. The highlight of that -- every show I do, I hold a potluck dinner at my house, and Mel Brooks came and ate my lasagna and he liked it! He was telling jokes and stories, and I just sat at the table thinking, Mel Brooks is eating my lasagna. It was wonderful.

In 1987, Anne was booked to appear on the British chat show, "Wogan." In the green room 5 minutes before airtime, host Terry Wogan informed her that the show was live. According to Wogan, she turned a deathly shade of pale and said she never did live television. In order to calm her down, Wogan suggested that she count 1, 2, 3... before walking on. When she was called onto the set, she could quite noticeably be seen counting whilst walking to her seat. She remained very uncomfortable and all her answers were monosyllabic. Wogan still says she was his most difficult guest. More

From a Dustin Hoffman interview: He recalled the couple's close relationship while he and Bancroft were filming The Graduate: "Mel called her every day. She kept telling me 'Mel called again today. He wants to know if I've kissed you yet. He's so jealous.' And on Fridays, she'd be saying, 'Could you hurry up, could you get it right? I need to get on a plane. I want to see Mel.' They were like kids. It is one of the greatest marriages -- nothing showy, nothing fake but you knew they were real lovebirds."




"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away."

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