The Arts

Anne Bancroft: An actor for all seasons

ANNE BANCROFT: A LIFE by Douglass K. Daniel. Published by University Press of Kentucky. 400 pages. $34.95 retail.

Anne Bancroft (1931-2005) was unquestionably one of the most acclaimed actors of her time, winning an Academy Award, two Emmys, two Golden Globes and countless other accolades. It would almost be surprising that there hasn’t been a comprehensive biography written about her, except for the fact that she was famously private. Bancroft was one celebrity who didn’t go out of her way to get attention, except through her work.

Author Douglass K. Daniel does an exemplary job in celebrating the life and career of Bancroft, a performer he clearly admires. Although Bancroft’s husband Mel Brooks and their son Max (author of World War Z) did not participate in this biography, it is in no way salacious. If you’re looking for major gossip, look elsewhere – because Daniel is not looking for it, either.

Born Anne Maria Louisa Italiano in the Bronx, the acting bug bit early, and as a contract player for Twentieth Century Fox, she earned some notice despite the overall quality of the films she was appearing in (including such camp classics as Demetrius and the Gladiators and the unforgettable 3-D opus Gorilla at Large). Dissatisfied but undaunted, she returned to New York, enrolled at the Actor’s Studio, and soon found success on the stage, winning back-to-back Tony Awards for Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker. Her big-screen comeback was a reprise of Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker (1962), this role won her the Oscar and secured her reputation.

Of course, Bancroft’s best-known film is The Graduate (1967), not just the biggest hit of her career but the highest-grossing comedy of that decade. Yet she was never really bankable. Of her Oscar-nominated performances, only The Graduate and The Turning Point (1977) were hits. She also turned down roles in The Exorcist (1973) because she was pregnant and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

Using a variety of previously published interviews, which are duly attributed in the notes and bibliography, Daniel has successfully fashioned a fully-rounded portrait of a talented and extremely professional actor. One who earned the respect of colleagues, critics and audiences the world over – and most deservedly.

Much as Arrow Video releases cult-friendly DVDs and Blu-rays, its literary line Arrow Books does likewise. The United Kingdom-based company has recently published Tom Mes’ Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji (155 pages; $24.95 retail) and Andrew Osmond’s Ghost in the Shell (119 pages; $24.95 retail).

The first is a thorough overview of the life and career of Japanese star Meiko Kaji (Stray Cat Rock, Female Convict Scorpion, Wandering Ginza Butterfly), who found success as both an actor and a singer, and boasts an international following despite never having made a film outside of Japan (although she did receive offers).

The second book is an extensive exploration of the long-running and ongoing film series based on the original 1989 manga sensation, which has spawned an entire series of live-action and animated features, multiple television series, video games and most recently a big-budget Hollywood production starring Scarlett Johansson. Despite a mixed critical and box-office reception, it hasn’t slowed the franchise down, as another animated (anime) feature is in development. Almost from the very beginning, Ghost in the Shell established an international fan-base and it’s still holding steady after almost 30 years.

The official Arrow Video website is www.arrowfilms.co.uk, or you can find it on Facebook @ArrowVideo.

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