Anna Maria Louisa Italiano was born on September 17, 1931, in the Bronx, New York, to Mildred DiNapoli and Michael Italiano. Both of her parents were Italian immigrants who came from Muro Lucano, Potenza, Italy. Anne had always taken an interest in acting and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City where she went by the name Anne Marno.
In 1952, Anne was cast in her first film, Don’t Bother to Knock, which co-starred Marilyn Monroe. The film’s studio changed her surname to Bancroft, and the actress used this new last name in all auditions and credits. Her television and film career stalled in the following years, but returned to New York City and found success and fame on Broadway. In 1958, Anne won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Two for the Seesaw and took home the prize the next year for her work in The Miracle Worker. The award-winning play was adapted to film three years later, and Anne, who reprised her Broadway role, was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress. She became a cultural icon in 1967 when she was cast as Mrs. Robinson in the The Graduate – the role earned her another Academy Award nomination.
In 1964, Anne married comedian and director Mel Brooks. The two had one son, Max, in 1972. She continued to act until 2004 with her last major role in the 2003 television movie The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone. During her career she won one Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, two Tony Awards, and two Emmy Awards. In 2005, Anne passed away from uterine cancer.