December 23, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Patty Duke remembers Anne Bancroft

Sept. 17, 1931 – June 6, 2005

She was the ultimate dramatic actress. And she had that wicked sense of humor: It wasn’t a surprise to me that she and Mel Brooks married — of course she would marry that crazy man! The first time I met her, I was auditioning to play Helen Keller in the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker. I was 12 years old and she was 29. Part of the audition was to talk with Arthur Penn, the director, and the rest of it was to fight with Anne Bancroft. And so she came out of the audience up onto the stage, and Arthur would say, Now Helen does this, and teacher does that, and Helen does this, and then teacher smacks her — and Annie smacked me! But I didn’t recoil; I was ready to hit her back. There were two more auditions and fights. Then finally Arthur and Anne agreed that she and I could go toe-to-toe.

Anne taught me — by example, not by lecture — the ethics and discipline of the theater. She was also one of the sexiest creatures that ever lived. Without being too obvious, I stole as much as I could from her behavior. (Bancroft died of uterine cancer in New York City.)

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