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Anne Bancroft (1931-2005)


  1. Grace Kelly, Fourteen Hours, 1950.    Director Henry Hathaway recalled testing three unknowns on the same day forMrs. Louise Ann Fullerin the man-on-a-ledge thriller. Kelly got the role (her debut),  Bancroft  got a Fox contract, and after seeing her tests, Rule was pacted by Warner Bros.  A good day’s work!
  2. Janet Leigh, Rogue Cop, 1953.     Bancroft tested for the titular Robert Taylor’s side order, the eternal nightclub chanteuse with, of course… A Past. Also in the frame: Barbara Bates and Margia Dean. George Raft stole everything in his first A movie in years. Anne went back to Broadway and bided her time.  
  3. Debra Paget, The Last Hunt, 1956.    Still visible in some long shots, Bancroft was injured during a horse-riding scene with Stewart Granger, who said director Richard Brooks refused her a stunt-double. MGM production chief Dore Schary later admitted it was him.
  4. Dana Wynter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956.    Oh no!  Gorilla At Large in 1954 was already one horror trip too many.
  5. Jean Seberg, Saint Joan, 1957.    Although a trifle old at 26  or the 19-year-old Maid of Orleans, the tyrannical producer-director Otto Preminger was intrigued by the mainly TV actress - unless you count films like The Girl in Black Stockings, Demetrius and the Gladiators and her 1954 debut, Gorilla At Large.
  6. Susan Cummings, Verboten! 1957.   “The first girl I saw was RAVISHING!” growled mavrick autuer Samuel Fuller in his usual CAPITALS. “I ADORED BANCROFT. NEVER seen her in a film. She was under contract to Fox. DIDN’T LIKE the roles there... THE FRIEND OF THE FRIEND OF THE LEADING LADY! So she was thinking of THEATRE in New York. She just wasn’t what I wanted for German girl.”
  7. Shirley MacLaine, Two For The Seesaw, 1961.     “When transposing a successful Broadway show to the screen, you can’t please everybody,” declared producer Walter Mirisch. “If you use the cast of the original, your’e criticised.If you don’t, you’re criticised. I’ve done it both ways.” This time,although Anne was Gittel Moscavitz, UA wanted A Name.
  8. Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music, 1964.     An off-the-wall idea for Robert Wise’s second musical about a girl  named Maria. More logical choices were Leslie Caron, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and Shirley Jones. None of them glowed like Julie.
  9. Edie Adams, The Honey Pot, 1967.    Preferred a stage date to joining writer-director Joseph Mankiewicz in Rome with Rex Harrison, Susan Hayward, Maggie Smith for a perfectly elegant case of murder.
  10. Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge, 1970.    “It should have been a comedyspoof,” said author GoreVidal, “with Mike Nichols directing.”

  11. Norma Crane, Fiddler on the Roof, 1970.   Annie passed presumably because she saws it as secondary role. When winning Golde, Norma learned she had breast cancer - a fact she revealed only to a few, including her close friend, Natalie Wood. She paid Norma’s hospital and 1973 funeral bills.
  12. Hildegarde Neil, Antony and Cleopatra, 1971.     Charlton Heston was Antony and directing - after offering the chore to his mate Orson Welles. “Do you have a great Cleopatra?” “We don't have any yet. You direct it and we'll pick an actress and you make her great.” “Not with that part, dear boy.” True.
  13. Morgana King,The Godfather,  1971.
  14. Ellen Burstyn, The Exorcist, 1973.
  15. Ellen Burstyn, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, 1974.     She “nibbled” when Robert Getchell's script rested with producer David Susskind for three months
  16. Elizabeth Taylor, Identikit, Italy, 1974.   First choice of UK producer Joseph Janni when buying Muriel Spark's novel for Italian director Luchino Visconti in 1970.
  17. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1974.
  18. Mary Steenburgen, Goin‘ South, 1978.     So Mary made her movie debut; so did John Belushi.
  19. Faye Dunaway, Mommie Dearest, 1981.     That was the idea -until she read the script. It was Joan Crawford (subject of the film) who accepted Bancroft’s Miracle Worker Oscar for her in 1963.
  20. Maggie Smith, The Missionary, 1982.     UK casting icon Irene Lamb cleverly suggested Bancroft. Scenarist-star Michael Palin felt she was too old and not skittish - “a light, naughty side of which, I think, youth may be a not inconsiderable part.” (Well, he did once call it The Missionary Position). Asked which lady was the bigger draw in the US, the Sony/Columbia chief John Calley voted Maggie but said neither one meant a thing!

  21. Shirley MacLaine, Terms of Endearment, 1983.   Bancroft and Nicholson was feted never to happened. She topped all lists for Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and now for Auroa Greenaway. Writer-director James L Brooks’ next selection was the just as inevitable, Ratched, herself: Louise Fletcher.But as Jack Nicholson biographer Dennis McDougal, said of her: “MacLaine understood prim.”
  22. Connie Booth, American Friends, 1990.      This time it was Michael Palin, himself, who first thought of La Bancroft to be opposite his clergyman (encore) in his newest script. In her 84 Charing Cross Road, 1986, he discovered her “superb ability to fill characters with life without becoming fussy or exasperatingly hyperactive and her ability to move me to tears (by the end of the movie) are breathtaking.” A strong, big, major actress. but he rightly felt, too old for the role.... that, finally, shesaw little of interest in. OK, because also shining in Bancroft’s UK film, was the youngerConnie, a Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star during her 1968-1978 marriage to John Cleese.
  23. Cloris Leachman, Spanglish, 2004.      Ill health prevented her being Téa Leoni's mother.
  24. Nancy Marchand, The Sopranos, TV, 1999-2007.     Bancroft was always creator David Chase’s idea for Livi, Tony’s evil mother. “We must have read 200 women or more. Then somebody suggested Nancy. She sat down and did it. The character is based on my mother, her mannerisms - Nancy was channeling her. She just got it.”  “Please keep me working, David,” Nancy told David. “That’s keeping me alive.” Both actresses were dead from cancer before the end of the series.
  25. Shirley MacLaine, Rumor Has It, 2005.      Jennifer Aniston discovers her granny is the woman who seduced The Graduate, so what better idea than having Mrs Robinson play herself.Alas, she was terminally ill and died before the film opened. 


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