“She was tall and striking, and he always referred to himself as short and homely,” author Patrick McGillgan told Closer Weekly for their latest issue currently on newsstands. “Then there was the matter of their disparate ethnicities.”
According to the outlet, the actress once joked, “When Mel told his Jewish mother he was marrying an Italian girl, she said, ‘I’ll be in the kitchen — with my head in the oven.’”
McGilligan recently published a biography on the comic titled “Funny Man: Mel Brooks,” taking a peek at his life behind cameras.
McGilligan claimed it was Brooks, now 92, who introduced himself to Bancroft while she was guest-starring on “The Perry Como Show” in 1961.
“He began to follow her around doggedly, and they clicked,” he said. “She found him funny, adorable, smart and entertaining, and he admired her serious acting prowess and thought she was a beauty.”
After three years of dating, the couple married in 1964. Brooks’ career soon skyrocketed as the co-creator of TV’s “Get Smart.” He would go on to win three Oscars for Best Original Screenplay [1969’s “The Producers”], Best Adapted Screenplay [1975’s “Young Frankenstein”] and Best Original Song [1975’s “Blazing Saddles.”]
As for Bancroft, she was acclaimed for several iconic roles, including that of Mrs. Robinson in 1967’s “The Graduate.”
But despite the couple’s growing fame, their love and adoration for each other endured in Hollywood.
“They spent time apart, sometimes going to foreign countries, but they always visited each other’s sets,” said McGilligan. “They did bicker and disagree, but they also agreed on a lot, and they always ended things with a laugh.”
In 1972, Bancroft and Brooks welcomed their only child together, a son named Max.
“She did most of the parenting,” said McGilligan. “Mel later said he regretted that at times he focused on his career to the detriment of being a father.”
The pair would also go on to work together occasionally, particularly in 1984’s “To Be or Not to Be.”
And their love lasted right all the way to Bancroft’s death in 2005 at age 73 from uterine cancer.
“I’m married to a beautiful and talented woman who can lift your spirits just by looking at you,” Brooks once gushed.
Bancroft also once quipped, “When he comes home at night and I hear his key in the lock, I say to myself, ‘Oh good! The party’s about to begin!’”
McGilligan said Brooks was “deeply wounded” when he lost his great love.
“He couldn’t get out of bed,” he claimed. “But he slowly bounced back. [Now he’s] like the Energizer Bunny — he keeps going and going.”
Journalist Douglass K. Daniel, who previously published a biography on the late actress titled “Anne Bancroft: A Life,” told Fox News in February 2018 that one thing that did give her joy throughout her life was her relationship with Brooks.
“People told me their love was the real deal… [And] as much as we want to see them as an odd couple — she’s a dramatic actress and he a comedy writer — they shared a love of laughter,” said Daniel. “They were both also divorced… They were a little older, a little more mature when they met… And they both had a better understanding of what it took to make a marriage work. That odd couple wasn’t so opposite after all.”
Brooks also made sure to stay by his beloved’s side while she privately battled cancer.
“She had been dealing with cancer for a long time,” claimed Daniel. “She had her first brush with cancer around 1980… She kept it very quiet. Some of their closest friends didn’t know about it… It was also a matter of career. People have to be very careful about illnesses being out there because you won’t get hired if people know you’re sick.
"You’re sinking millions of dollars on a production… Keeping it quiet made sense from a professional view… [But] she dealt with cancer on and off over the years.”
And Bancroft kept working. Her last credited role before her death was that of herself in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in 2004.
“One of her colleagues told me she was quick to anger, she was quick to laughter — she had her emotions very much on the surface,” said Daniel. “And that made her a great actress. She responded to things emotionally, whether it was in her acting or in her life. And that made her very memorable to those who knew and loved her.”