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Anne Bancroft Was Mel Brooks' Wife of 4 Decades Who Passed Away from Cancer — Remembering Her

Edduin Carvajal
May 23, 2021
09:30 A.M.

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft were married for over four decades – a lifetime in Hollywood. After her passing, he said they grew up during their time together.

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Born in September 1931, Anne Bancroft was destined to be in the show business, and her family knew it. At family gatherings, she would frequently entertain her aunts, uncles, and cousins.

As she grew older, her parents encouraged her to explore her creative side and paid for her education at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan.

Anne Bancroft on March 11, 1955 | Photo: Getty Images

Anne Bancroft on March 11, 1955 | Photo: Getty Images

ANNE BANCROFT’S CAREER

Before her time at the Academy ended, someone spotted her rehearsing alone on the stage during lunch hour and invited her to audition for a TV series called “Studio One.”

Anne Bancroft eventually said she stayed on stage while the other kids were out because she had no money to buy lunch and “no dates.” Her audition went great, and she booked her first professional role in “Studio One.”

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In the early 50s, 20th Century Fox hired her but tried to give her “the Monroe-type sex buildup.” However, she didn’t want to develop her body but her acting skills.

Anne Bancfoft on May 29, 2003 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Anne Bancfoft on May 29, 2003 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Bancroft’s career significantly improved after working on a Broadway play opposite Henry Fonda called “Two for the Seesaw.” Her performance was so outstanding that it got her a Tony Award.

Shortly after, the actress won her second Tony award for portraying Annie Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker.” In 1962, the play was taken to the big screen, Bancroft reprised her role, and she took home an Academy Award.

Around the same time, Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks met. It all happened in 1961 when Brooks, a multi-awarded actor, comedian, and filmmaker, saw her rehearsing for “The Perry Como Show.”

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Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft on September 9, 1994 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft on September 9, 1994 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

MEETING MEL BROOKS

Bancroft once explained that Brooks introduced himself from across the theater, which surprised her as no man had ever approached her with “that kind of aggression.”

She believed people, especially men, were scared of her for her successful Broadway performances. It is important to point out that Brooks was not a household name at the time.

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Apart from that, he was still married to actress Florence Baum. On the other hand, Bancroft and her first husband, lawyer Martin May, had ended their relationship four years prior.

Still, Bancroft fell in love with Brooks instantly as he looked like her dad and acted like her mom. The comedian divorced Baum in 1962, and he and Brooks tied the knot in New York City on August 5, 1964.

“To Be or Not to Be” was his favorite film as he got to be with his wife “for 24 hours.”

Max Brooks and Mel Brooks on November 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

Max Brooks and Mel Brooks on November 18, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California | Photo: Getty Images

In 1972, the couple had their only son, Max Brooks, best known as the author of “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z.” The latter was eventually adapted into a feature film starring Brad Pitt.

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Bancroft and Brooks also worked together a few times, including in “The Elephant Man,” starring Bancroft and produced by Brooks, and “To Be or Not to Be.”

ANNE BANCROFT’S PASSING

The couple was together for almost 41 years until death did them part on June 6, 2005, when Mel Brooks’ wife passed away from uterine cancer. Years after her death, Brooks said:

“Anne and I both grew up during the marriage, […] we both knew what was really important, and what love meant, and […] what doing for each other meant.”

Mel Brooks on April 26, 2018 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

Mel Brooks on April 26, 2018 in Hollywood, California | Photo: Getty Images

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After her death, he said she kept pushing him and always believed in him as a songwriter, screenplay writer, or “whatever I wanted to do.” The actor pointed out that “To Be or Not to Be” was his favorite film as he got to be with his wife “for 24 hours.”

He joked that not many people could stand their wives for 24 hours, but he could as she was easy and fun. Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks’ romance remains one of the most beautiful in Hollywood.

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