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THE showbusiness world has united in a final "Here's to you, Mrs Robinson" on the death of Anne Bancroft, who was immortalised on screen as the middle-aged seductress in The Graduate.
The Oscar-winning actor succumbed to uterine cancer on Monday night at the age of 73 at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, according to a spokesman for her husband, the comedian and director Mel Brooks.
Bancroft won her Oscar for her performance as Annie Sullivan, the woman who taught the deaf, dumb and blind Helen Keller in the 1962 film The Miracle Worker. It was a role she had begun on stage in William Gibson's play in 1959, winning her second successive Tony Award.
Theatres on Broadway planned to dim their marquees in her honour.
But it was for her performance as Mrs Robinson, who shatters middle-class American values by seducing her daughter's boyfriend in the 1967 film The Graduate, that Bancroft will be remembered.
Mrs Robinson's sexual adventure with Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock jolted the US just as the women's movement was gaining momentum.
Hoffman, in the title role, delivered the famous line when he realised his girlfriend's mother was coming on to him in a hotel room: "Mrs Robinson, you're trying to seduce me." The part was made even more famous by the success of the Simon and Garfunkel song used in the film, Mrs Robinson, part of the film score.
Despite all her memorable performances, that was the role for which she was best remembered.
In 2003 she admitted that almost everyone was discouraged from taking the role "because it was all about sex with a younger man". She viewed the character as having unfulfilled dreams, relegated to a conventional life with a conventional husband.
She added: "Film critics said I gave a voice to the fear we all have: that we'll reach a certain point in our lives, look around and realise that all the things we said we'd do and become will never come to be - and that we're ordinary."
She spoke of her sadness that none of her other works were appreciated as much: "I'm quite surprised that with all my work, and some of it is very, very good, that nobody talks about The Miracle Worker.
"I understand the world ... I'm just a little dismayed that people aren't beyond it yet."
Born Anna Maria Louise Italiano in the Bronx in New York, she started acting on television as Anne Marno.
Offered a choice of screen names by her Hollywood studio, she picked Bancroft because it sounded dignified.
After a string of B-movies, she escaped to Broadway in 1958 and won her first Tony Award opposite Henry Fonda in Two for the Seesaw. Her Oscar and her second Tony followed with the stage and movie versions of The Miracle Worker.
Other Oscar nominations came for The Pumpkin Eater (1964), The Graduate (1967), The Turning Point (1977) and Agnes of God (1985).
Brooks, who co-starred with Bancroft in To Be Or Not To Be, met her on the set of a Perry Como TV special in which she was singing and dancing. He found out which restaurant she aimed to dine in, walked in and "accidentally" met her again.
They married on August 5, 1964, and had one son, Max, a screenwriter, in 1972.