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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Here's to You, Anne Bancroft
What made Mrs. Robinson such an indelible character in American culture? It has, as with many things, a lot to do with sex, but more to do with freedom. The Graduate came along at a very precarious time in American film. The late 60s saw many of the major studios either collapsing or losing their audiences (or both). There was a new generation of auteur filmmakers waiting in the wings of their film schools, but they wouldn't come into their own until the early 1970s. In 1967, when The Graduate was released, films were not on most people's mind.

What was on their mind was sex, drugs, rock and roll and above all, freedom. Freedom in every imaginable way - freedom from reality, from the demands of the economy, from the demands of family and particularly freedom from what they saw as outdated moral codes. The Graduate character of Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman) is young, but not free. Mrs. Robinson, on the other hand, is.

"Freedom, man - that's what it's all about," was to become a rallying cry a couple of years later in Easy Rider, but Anne Bancroft was way ahead of them. Her confident sexuality reflects, probably for the first time in a hit movie, the underlying reality of 1950s America. Women were bored - their workaholic husbands ignored them, and ignored their needs and they were given little or no opportunity to develop individual lives. Mrs. Robinson shattered all that, acting out "free" in a truly sixties way. If, by the end of the movie, she has turned into the enemy, it's only because she has freed Benjamin to realize his own possibilities. The final scene of The Graduate shows the young couple riding off into the turbulent but exciting future of the 1960s.

Anne Bancroft's performance in the film is key - and she hits exactly the right tone of confidence and sexuality. I can't imagine anyone else in the role (although it has been re-created on stage by a number of actresses). It's such a potent image of the times, and all times, particularly now that America is sliding back into purile fundamentalist moralism. Even though, by all accounts, Ms. Bancroft would have rather been remembered for other things, the ultimate symbol of cultural freedom isn't that bad.

Here's to you.
:: posted by Ian Dawe, 6/08/2005 Comments (1)
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At 11:41 PM, said...

Here's to you Mrs. Robinson, Anne Bancroft, I'll drink to you today, and remember always!!


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