Anne Bancroft’s death on June 8 resulted in the expected tributes in print and broadcast media. It is perhaps unsurprising that many of these reports focused primarily on just one of her roles – that of Mrs. Robinson in the 1967 film The Graduate. The nature of the subject matter – sex between a young man and an older woman – was risqué for its time and Ms. Bancroft’s portrayal was certainly memorable.
A single film does not make for a noteworthy career, however, and the accolades she has received are due to a large number of performances, even if the others have been given short shrift. Included in her varied career in theater and movies are roles in The Miracle Worker (1962), To Be or Not To Be (1983), Agnes of God (1985), and G.I. Jane (1997).
One other performance stands out for me, however, and it reflects perhaps a bias for seeing mature women in roles that reflect depth and that challenge their acting skills. The 1977 Herbert Ross film, The Turning Point, deserves praise on many accounts, not least for its beautiful portrayal of ballet sequences. It provides a showcase as well for the talents of Ms. Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine as two former rivals now forced to face the consequences of choices made earlier in their lives. It is unfortunate that using ballet as the backdrop for developing characters keeps away many viewers from the type of performance for which Ms. Bancroft is justifiably praised.
It is equally unfortunate that the need to reduce news to sound bites results in summarizing a career in a manner that does not do true justice to the one who is being honored.