Anna Maria Italiano was born in the Bronx, New York. She was the second of three daughters born to Michael Italiano (1906-2001) and Mildred DiNapoli (1908-2010).
She took on the stage name Anne Bancroft at the beginning of her career and made her cinema debut in Don't Bother to Knock (1952). In the fifties she made a lot of forgettable movies as a supporting actress until she became a star with The Miracle Worker (1962), for which she won an Oscar. During the sixties, seventies and eighties, she gave heavily acclaimed performances as a lead actress in such films as The Pumpkin Eater (1964), Young Winston (1972), The Prisoner of Second Avenue (1975), The Turning Point (1977), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Agnes of God (1985), and 84 Charing Cross Road (1987).
However, the most famous role of her career was as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (1967). Her status as the "older woman" in the film is iconic, although in real life Bancroft was just 35 and only five years older than costar Dustin Hoffman, who at age 30 played a 20 year old being seduced by a woman more than twice his age. Bancroft would later express her frustration over the fact that the film overshadowed her other work.
By the nineties, her transition back to supporting actress in feature films was complete. She had character roles in many high-profile movies like, for example, Point of No Return (1993) or Keeping the Faith (2000), but television provided Bancroft with larger, meatier roles. She starred in seven made-for-TV films during her later years, all of which earned her major award nominations, including an Emmy win for Deep in My Heart (1999) (TV).
Sadly, on June 6, 2005, Anne Bancroft died at age 73 of uterine cancer. Her death surprised many, as she had not released any details of her illness to the public. Among her survivors was her mother Mildred, her husband of forty years (Mel Brooks), and her only child (Max Brooks) who was born in 1972. Her final film, the animated feature Delgo (2008), was released posthumously in 2008 and dedicated to her memory.