born Anna Maria Louise Italiano, Bancroft chose her new name from a list presented to her by the producers of Don't Bother to Knock in 1952, who felt her birth name was 'too ethnic'. Anne studied drama at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and began her acting career in live television. her first foray into Hollywood resulted in several forgettable films, prompting a return to New York to concentrate on stage acting. "The studios wanted to give me the Monroe-type sex buildup", she later said, "[but] I wanted to develop my acting, not my body."
on Broadway, Bancroft won Tony awards for Two for the Seesaw with Henry Fonda, and The Miracle Worker with Patty Duke. she would later win her only Oscar playing Anne Sullivan, teacher and mentor to Helen Keller, in the film adaptation of The Miracle Worker. best known for her Oscar nominated performance as the seductive Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, Anne also received nods for her performances in The Pumpkin Eater, The Turning Point, and Agnes of God. other noteworthy films include Lynch's The Elephant Man, and 84 Charing Cross Road. Bancroft wrote and directed Fatso, an underrated film starring Dom DeLuise as a man wrestling with obesity, that features Anne as his sister, urging him to lose weight.
Anne's first marriage to Martin May in 1953 ended in divorce just 4 years later. in 1961, she met Mel Brooks at a rehearsal for the Perry Como variety show. Brooks bribed a studio employee to find out where she was having dinner so he could meet her again. once Bancroft met Brooks, she went to her therapist and told him they had to conclude the therapy as fast as possible because she had met the man she was going to marry.
the couple married on August 5, 1964. they had one son, Maximillian, in 1972, and were together for more than four decades, until Anne's death in June 2005 of uterine cancer. her death surprised even friends, as she was intensely private and had not released details of her illness.