best film:  The Graduate runs away from the other seven (7) archiveable films as the best overall film in the career of Anne Bancroft. Bancroft is impeccable in Mike Nichols’ stylistic masterpiece. The film is marvelously draped in Simon & Garfunkel music, but it is impossible to picture this work of art without Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in the lead roles.


Bancroft as the unforgettable Mrs. Robinson


best performance:   Dustin Hoffman is the true lead in The Graduate. Bancroft is in less of the film’s running time than you might remember (roughly 30 minutes total) but her Mrs. Robinson is still an extremely memorable character and Bancroft’s towering, layered performance is absolutely critical to the film working as well as it does. Bancroft never plays it as if this is Benjamin (Hoffman’s character) story alone. This is her affair and her failed marriage.



stylistic innovations/traits:   Anne Bancroft is very strong in 84 Charing Cross so there is depth to her filmography here spilling out beyond that top five below despite the total of only eight (8) archiveable films. Bancroft worked her way up in television during most of the 1950s. Her film breakthrough in The Miracle Worker is reprising a role she played in theater. She was over thirty  (30) with her first archiveble film (she is perfect as the world wary and experienced Annie Sullivan). That look she had is probably why she often played older than she was in real life (she is not much older than Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross in The Graduate). She is brilliant in a big masterpiece and that helps her cause in terms of placement on this list. She was nominated for five (5) Oscars (all of them leads – juxtaposed with say Thelma Ritter where hers were all for supporting).


Bancroft as Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. Bancroft credits Arthur Penn as the most important director of her career and that makes sense as their work in the theater and the film adaptation in this role as Annie Sullivan was her big breakthrough. She, Patty Duke (who costars as Helen Keller) and Arthur Penn all worked together on the film and theater version, too – and their experience together pays off during the famous breakfast scene. For Duke and Bancroft this fight (somewhere between raising a disobedient child and breaking a wild horse) is a long dialogue-free wrestling match (it is almost like a dance) in the kitchen. Penn makes the mistake of cutting this up. There is a battle over spoons, Keller’s stubbornness, and a food fight. The scene lasts eight (8) minutes with “good girl” being the only two words spoken.


directors worked with:  Nobody more than once as far as the archives are concerned. Bancroft worked with Arthur Penn (1), Jack Clayton (1) Mike Nichols (1), John Ford (1), Robert Wise (1) and David Lynch (1) – Alfonso Cuaron (1) in Great Expectations in 1998.


Bancroft as Jo Armitage in The Pumpkin Eater (1964) – reoccurring close-ups rewards Bancroft’s gift as an actor.


top five performances:

  1. The Graduate
  2. The Miracle Worker
  3. The Pumpkin Eater
  4. Seven Women
  5. The Elephant Man


archiveable films

1962- The Miracle Worker
1964- The Pumpkin Eater
1966- Seven Women
1967- The Graduate
1975- The Hindenburg
1980- The Elephant Man
1987- 84 Charing Cross Road
1998- Great Expectations