TV Wars Arm Anne for “Gladiator” Role (The Los Angeles Times, July 1953)

The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California); 26 July 1953; pg. 85.

Author: Philip K. Scheuer

Dark, sparkling-eyed Anne Bancroft, who came to movies from TV, misses the rehearsals most of all. Except for Roy Baker, who directed her first 20th Century Fox film, Don’t Bother to Knock, her studio mentors have been inclined to shoot first and ask questions afterward.

“In television, she says, “we rehearsed for days and days before. It gave us time to think about a part. That way you can always do a thing better than you’ve done it the last time until you get it close to the best.”

Set Video Record:

Anne Bancroft was Anne Marno in video. During one stretch she played 49 live shows in 69 weeks–all dramas, and a record, she believes. Each of these meant an average of three or four rehearsal days for a half-hour program and of nine days for an hour. The shows included Studio One, Danger, The Web and plays for Kraft. Despite the reputation she established as Anne Marno, Fox would have none of it.

“They did let me keep the Anne,” she relates. “I chose Bancroft from the list submitted to me.”

Born in New York:

She was born Anna Italiano–Anna Maria Louisa Italiano–21 years ago in New York City, the second of three daughters. Her father, who is in the dress business, and her mother are here with her now. On the screen, particularly, the medium-tall Anne gives almost no suggestion of her Italian heritage. She played a singer in a cocktail lounge in Don’t Bother to Knock, an aristocratic 17th-century snob in Treasure of the Golden Condor, Mrs. Sol Hurok in Tonight We Sing, a sophisticated secretary in The Kid from Left Field, and Paula, the prostitute (“you see how I make the rounds!”) in The Gladiators, formerly The Story of Demetrius

Sings a Bit:

“I seem to get most of my fan mail on Don’t Bother to Knock,” she remarked, “possible because I was just a regular all-American girl. No, I didn’t actually do the singing–Eve Marley did that, and I couldn’t have reached the high notes she reached. I do sing, though; sang a few songs in television, even if no one ever hired me expressly for that. It was just as extra added attraction if they wanted it.”

When asked if she was anything like the real Mrs. Sol Hurok in Tonight We Sing, she laughed.

“I don’t know,” she said, “I was a composite of two wives.”

Flapper at Heart:

“However, I did love the way I looked. I love the styles of the 20s–if I’m ever reincarnated, I want it to be as a flapper–so naturally I was in my glory.”

Anne never made up her mind to become an actress; she “just did.” On TV she played everything from an Italian girl of 16 to a Russian woman of 35. A friend, a test director for 20th, asked her to help out by appearing with a boy who had possibilities. It was a scene from The Girl on the Via Flaminia. The boy was tested and Anne got the contract–a very wonderful one, she says, as negotiated by her present manager, Mort Millman. 

Movies Easier Than TV:

Lack of rehearsals or not, she finds motion pictures easier than television. 

“In TV you are always running around, trying to be on a certain mark at a certain time,” she recalled. “I’ve always been a relaxed kind of actress and in that sense movies are a relief.”

“Nobody listens to me,” she added, “but I’d love to play comedy! True, to play comedy you’ve got to know your medium and where everything is–camera, props, lines, clothes–and I realize that’s difficult. It’s why I think rehearsals are so important.”

“On the other hand, some directors don’t rehearse you because they don’t want you to become mechanical. You have to work with what good points you have.”

Miss Bancroft, whose good points are considerable, declared she intends “to stay with pictures and do everything I’m given to do–3D, CinemaScope, color, black and white, flats–I don’t care what the medium is, so long as it’s acting!”

In the next breath, though, she said she’d like to get married and have kids. When you’re 21 and beautiful, all things are possible–even the possibility of combining a career with motherhood. But if she had to choose, I suspect she would take the latter.

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