Wednesday, June 08, 2005

God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson

I was sorry to hear the news about the death of actress Anne Bancroft, after a lengthy bout with cancer.

Ms. Bancroft will, of course, be remembered always as Dustin Hoffman's elder seductress in The Graduate, and for her Oscar-winning turn as Helen Keller's teacher Annie Sullivan in the original The Miracle Worker. But I think the role in which I appreciated her talents most was as the senior nun in Agnes of God, a film I otherwise didn't care for very much, but in which Ms. Bancroft lent subtle nuance to a role that could have been simply stereotypical. She was also excellent as a fragile, conflicted woman in Jack Clayton's The Pumpkin Eater, adapted from Harold Pinter's play. I even forgave her for being horribly miscast in husband Mel Brooks's ill-conceived remake of one of my favorite films, To Be or Not to Be. (Talented she was; Carole Lombard she wasn't.)

And, perhaps as much any of her other accomplishments, Ms. Bancroft deserves plaudits for convincing Brooks to turn The Producers into a musical for the stage. Millions of delighted theatergoers owe her a debt of thanks.

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