Anne Bancroft

Simpson Sundays: Marge Simpson’s Fear of Flying

Cary Grant North by Northwest

Season 6, Episode 11: Fear of Flying

When the Simpsons get on a plane to take a trip, Marge panics at the last minute, putting the family’s vacation on hold and the stress disrupts Marge’s life afterward. To cope with her fear of flying, Marge goes to see a therapist, who is voiced by Anne Bancroft.

Anne Bancroft on The Simpsons

During one of their sessions, Marge and her therapist look back at Marge’s childhood to see if her fear might be linked to a traumatic experience. Just one of several childhood experiences Marge recalls is a visit to a cornfield that went horribly wrong.

Marge Simpsons North By North West Parody

Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson: The Parts That Almost Got Away

Dustin Hoffman Ann Bancroft The Graduate

The Graduate is a movie I love every single aspect of. To me, it’s about as close a movie gets to perfection. By far, one of my favorite aspects of it is the cast. Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin Braddock and Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson are two of my favorite performances ever committed to celluloid; a career-defining film for both of them.

Nobody has ever played an awkward young guy quite as brilliantly as Dustin Hoffman did in The Graduate. He projected just the right amount of nervous energy and uncertainty. Mrs. Robinson is such a wonderfully rich role for a more mature woman and Anne Bancroft played that very complex character to the hilt.

Last week, I talked about how it’s hard to imagine The Graduate without songs like “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Sound of Silence,” but neither of those songs were originally intended to be used in the film. It’s even harder to imagine The Graduate without Anne Bancroft or Dustin Hoffman, but remarkably, neither of them were even close to being the first choices for their roles.

Jeanne Moreau Lana Turner Ava Gardner

Jeanne Moreau was director Mike Nichols’ first choice to play Mrs. Robinson, but the producers didn’t want her. Lana Turner, Shelley Winters, Susan Hayward, Patricia Neal, Angela Lansbury, Judy Garland, and Doris Day were all considered for the part. Ava Gardner was very interested in the part, but Nichols wasn’t very interested in her.

Robert Redford Anthony Perkins Warren Beatty

Before Dustin Hoffman came into the picture, Mike Nichols had considered Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Burt Ward, Robert Wagner, George Hamilton, Anthony Perkins, George Peppard, and Jack Nicholson for the part of Benjamin. Robert Redford was a top contender for the part, but ultimately Mike Nichols didn’t think audiences would find him believable as an underdog type.

When Hoffman was approached about auditioning for Benjamin, Dustin thought he was so wrong for the part that he wondered if he was being made fun of.  After Nichols convinced Hoffman it wasn’t a joke, he agreed to come in for a screen test with Katharine Ross and the result was nearly disastrous. When he arrived for the screen test, Hoffman looked so common and unpolished that producer Joseph E. Levine mistook him for a messenger. The test was supposed to be a love scene and at the time and not had Hoffman never done a love scene before, he was convinced that someone like Katharine Ross would never be interested in a guy like him. Dustin was certain he had failed miserably, but he got the part because he had the awkward quality they had been looking for all along.

Fashion in Film: The Graduate

Benjamin Braddock

Benjamin Braddock Diagonal Tie The Graduate

The whole premise of The Graduate revolves around Benjamin lacking direction.  Nothing says, “I’m feeling completely out of sorts” quite as clearly as wearing diagonal stripes.

Ties in The Graduate

Benjamin’s diagonal striped tie and unbuttoned jacket certainly don’t fit in with the other men at his graduation party. All the other men we see have their jackets buttoned up and are either wearing ties in solid colors or with a floral/geometric print.

Benjamin Braddock The Graduate White Shirt

Before Benjamin starts seeing Elaine, Benjamin is mostly seen wearing white dress shirts. But after Elaine finds out about Benjamin having an affair with her mother, he falls into a deep depression. From then on, his basic day-to-day uniform becomes a black shirt with khaki pants and a tan or khaki jacket.  This whole ordeal has had a huge impact on him and his sudden change in clothing reflects that.

Benjamin Braddock The Graduate

 

Mrs. Robinson

Mrs. Robinson Animal Print Clothes

Mrs. Robinson sure loves her animal prints.  Tiger print, leopard print, giraffe print, she doesn’t shy away from any of them. Animal prints are definitely something that command attention and Mrs. Robinson is a woman who desperately wants to be noticed.

Mr. Robinson Benjamin Braddock The Graduate

When we meet Mr. Robinson, his outfit makes it loud and clear that he and Mrs. Robinson are no longer on the same level.  While Mrs. Robinson has her hair done and is dressed to the nines in her fabulous cocktail dress, Mr. Robinson appears to have just come home from a round of golf at the country club and looks like he’s ready for a low-key night at home.

Mrs. Robinson The Graduate

Mrs. Robinson also tends to wear a lot of black. Black can be a very powerful color and in Mrs. Robinson’s case, the color seems to signify two different things.  Like an animal print, black is a very bold thing to wear. But black is also a color that is often associated with death and mourning. The person Mrs. Robinson wishes she could have been is dead and she knows she’s never going to be able to have the life she wanted for herself when she was younger.

Mrs. Robinson The Graduate

When Elaine finds out what has happening between Benjamin and her mother, Mrs. Robinson is wearing a black robe, but there’s nothing strong about it. She looks like a mess, her life is a mess, and she’s literally backed into a corner. It’s a moment of total defeat.

Elaine Robinson

Elaine Robinson Benjamin Braddock First Date The Graduate

Elaine Robinson starts out dressing like the polar opposite of her mother. For her first date with Benjamin, she wears a cream colored coat with a pink dress.  Not even a hint of her mother’s fondness for animal print or black to be seen here. She looks very young and fresh.

Elaine Robinson Bus The Graduate

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see much of this vibrant, more innocent version of Elaine Robinson. After she finds out about Benjamin having an affair with her mother, she heads into a much darker place and her wardrobe reflects that. Just like Benjamin, she starts favoring darker clothes — black boots, brown coats, black and dark blue shirts and sweaters.

Elaine Robinson Benjamin Braddock The Graduate

When characters have a connection in some way, particularly in a romantic way, it’s common for costume designers to dress them in ways that reflect that connection. Benjamin and Elaine’s costumes in the last half hour of The Graduate are a prime example of that. For the first time in the movie, Benjamin looks like he’s finally found a person he really connects with.  Elaine hates to admit it at first, but she connects with Benjamin in a way she doesn’t with anyone else in the movie. At least Elaine looks like she has more of a connection with Benjamin than she does with Carl Smith:

Carl Smith The Graduate

 

Ten Little Things I Love About The Graduate

The first moment we see Mrs. Robinson at the party.

Mrs. Robinson The Graduate

She looks so utterly lost and alone even though she’s surrounded by friends, just like Benjamin.

The Robinsons’ bar area.

The Graduate Mrs. Robinson

Mrs. Braddock’s poolside outfit.

Mrs. Braddock The Graduate

Although I’m sure that jacket would cause some really unfortunate tan lines.

The beads of sweat on Benjamin’s forehead when the clerk at the hotel desk asks if he’s there for an affair.

Benjamin Braddock The Graduate

Alice Ghostley!

Alice Ghostley The Graduate

This shot.

Benjamin Mrs. Robinson The Graduate

Mrs. Robinson’s leopard print coat.

Mrs. Robinson The Graduate

“Oh, it’s not. It’s completely baked.”

Benjamin Braddock The Graduate

Richard Dreyfuss!

Richard Dreyfuss The Graduate

The fact that Harold Lloyd was an advisor for the final sequence of the movie, which was inspired by his movie Girl Shy.

Benjamin Braddock Elaine Robinson The Graduate

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Another case of a movie poster not truly reflecting the movie.

When airline pilot Jed Towers (Richard Widmark) gets a letter from his girlfriend Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft) to break up with him, he goes to the hotel nightclub she sings at to get some closure.  After Lyn says she’s breaking up with him because he isn’t understanding enough, Jed heads back to his room to spend some time with a bottle of Rye.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, Eddie the elevator operator has gotten his niece Nell (Marilyn Monroe) a job for the night babysitting for a couple of hotel guests.  After Nell gets the girl she’s watching, Bunny, to bed, she finds Bunny’s mother’s fancy robe and jewelery and because she was never allowed to have any of those things growing up, she can’t resist trying them on for just a few minutes.

Back in Jed’s room, he looks out his window and sees Nell in the negligee.  He figures out which room she’s in, calls her up, and asks to come over and Nell agrees.  Nell never tells him that she’s just babysitting for the night.  When he gets there, he can’t quite figure her out and her explanations as to why she’s staying at the hotel just aren’t adding up.  But since he wants to work on being more understanding, he gives her the benefit of the doubt.  However, when Jed mentions that he’s a pilot, things really start to unravel fast.  Nell had a boyfriend named Phillip who was killed in a plane crash and she starts to believe that Jed is actually Phillip.  But then, Bunny wakes up and comes out to see Nell still wearing her mother’s things and starts causing a ruckus.  Nell forces Bunny back to bed and orders her to be quiet.  But when Bunny starts crying, Jed goes to see if he can take care of her and Nell opens the window for her when she complains of being hot, but Nell warns her again that she better not make any more noise.  Nell believes that Bunny is trying to stop her from being with Jed, who she still believes is her dead boyfriend.

Jed has had just about enough for one night, but before he leaves, he notices some scars on Nell’s wrists and she confesses that she tried slashing her wrists after Phillip died.  Just as Jed is finally ready to leave, there’s a knock on the door from Eddie, who came to check on Nell.  Jed hides in the bathroom and Eddie is furious to see Nell wearing Bunny’s mother’s things.  When he orders her to take them off immediately, Nell becomes even more unstable and hits him with an ashtray.  Bunny screams again and Jed tends to Eddie while Nell quiets Bunny down by tying her up and gagging her.  Only this time, some nosy neighbors come to see what’s going on.  They’d seen men coming into the room and heard Bunny crying and came to make sure everything was OK.  While they’re talking to Nell, they get the idea that Jed was holding them captive.  Jed sneaks out while she’s talking to the neighbors, but he goes back when he realizes something wasn’t right with Bunny.  When he gets back to the room, he unties Bunny and frees Eddie from the closet he had been locked into.  When he gets out of the closet, Eddie finally admits that Nell had spent the last three years in a mental hospital.  After they realize that Nell is now missing, they find her in the lobby with a razor blade, threatening to commit suicide.  Jed manages to talk her down.  Lyn witnesses the whole thing and is willing to give Jed another chance while Nell is taken to get the help that she needs.

For being the massive pop culture icon that Marilyn Monroe is, I think she is severely underrated in some respects.  Specifically, in terms of how outstanding she could be in dramatic roles.  In my book, Don’t Bother to Knock and Bus Stop are Marilyn’s two most underrated performances.  Don’t Bother to Knock was Marilyn’s first attempt at serious acting and she did an excellent job with it.  When playing a person with a mental illness, it’s so easy to make it over the top, but she played Nell with a great deal of restraint and vulnerability, which make her character all the more dark and disturbing.  If you only know Marilyn Monroe for he comedic roles, then Don’t Bother to Knock is definitely worth seeing.  You’ll really get a look at a whole different side to her.  It’s also worth noting that this was Anne Bancroft’s film debut.  Anne had a fairly small part, she spent most of her on-screen time singing, but she was a very nice singer.

My Top 100, 10-1

We’ve made it to the final ten favorite movies!  I hope you enjoyed reading about my hundred favorite movies as much as I enjoyed writing about them.  I’m definitely thinking that I might have to do some more big lists like this in the future!  Thanks again to Colin from Pick ‘n’ Mix Flix Reviews for suggesting I do this list in the first place!  Now, with further ado, my final ten favorites…

(more…)