20 How the ac­tress over­came early heart­break to find true suc­cess on-screen and in mother­hood.

Closer Weekly - - Contents - ANNE BAN­CROFT

Five years af­ter she se­duced Dustin Hoff­man — and mil­lions of movie­go­ers — in 1967’s The Grad­u­ate, Anne Ban­croft gave birth to her only child, Max. “She ap­proached par­ent­hood like her roles — she wanted to be per­fect,” Douglass K. Daniel, au­thor of Anne Ban­croft: A Life, tells Closer. As Grad­u­ate di­rec­tor Mike Nichols said, “Ev­ery­thing she does is per­fect.”

Anne de­vel­oped her tire­less work ethic while grow­ing up Anna Maria Louisa Ital­iano, the sec­ond of three kids to im­mi­grant par­ents, in NYC’s the Bronx. As a preschooler, she sang at fam­ily pic­nics. “Some­thing drove her to want to per­form,” says Daniel. “She never lost that.”

Yet Anne strug­gled early on, toil­ing in film flops like 1954’s Go­rilla at Large. Her first mar­riage, to busi­ness­man Martin May, ended af­ter four years in 1957. “Ev­ery pic­ture I did was worse than the last,” she said. “Ev­ery man I was in love with was worse than the last.”

Her luck changed in 1958 with her Tony­win­ning turn in Broad­way’s Two for the See­saw. A few years later, she met comic Mel Brooks, and their

chem­istry was



in­stant. “Ev­ery time I hear [his] key in the door, I know the party’s about to start,” she said. They wed in 1964 and shared more than 40 years of hap­pi­ness.

Anne’s movie ca­reer had taken off af­ter she reprised her stage role in The Mir­a­cle Worker and won a best ac­tress Os­car in 1963. But she had a love/hate re­la­tion­ship with the part that made her a su­per­star: The Grad­u­ate’s Mrs. Robin­son. “You’re mak­ing me look ter­ri­ble!” she com­plained to Nichols, who lit Anne, 35, to ap­pear a decade older. Over time, “she rec­on­ciled with Mrs. Robin­son,” Daniel says. “She looked back on it as a mo­ment in her life when ev­ery­thing came to­gether.”

Though she’d do more great work, her most im­por­tant role was as Max’s mom. “He’s dyslexic, and she saw to it all his text­books were recorded be­cause read­ing was dif­fi­cult for him,” Daniel says. When she died of cancer in 2005, her fam­ily and fans were heart­bro­ken, but their love lives on. Asked in 2014 about his great­est ac­com­plish­ment, Mel said sim­ply, “Mar­ry­ing Anne Ban­croft.”

— Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by Diana Cooper

THE MIR­A­CLE WORKER As teacher An­nie Sul­li­van (with Patty Duke as He­len Keller), Anne won best ac­tress at the 1963 Os­cars. Anne with hus­band Mel Brooks and their beloved son, Max, in 1986

TWO FOR THE SEE­SAW Anne’s work op­po­site Henry Fonda in the 1958 play made her an overnight star.

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