Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shelly Winters

Shelley Winters (August 18, 1920 – January 14, 2006) was an American actress who appeared in dozens of films, as well as on stage and television; her career spanned over 50 years until her death in 2006. A two-time Academy Award winner, Winters is probably most remembered for her roles in A Place in the Sun, The Big Knife, Lolita, The Night of the Hunter, Alfie, and The Poseidon Adventure.

Early life

Winters was born Shirley Schrift in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Rose (née Winter), a singer with The Muny, and Jonas Schrift, a designer of men's clothing. Her parents were Jewish; her father immigrated from Austria, and her mother had been born in St. Louis to Austrian immigrants. Her parents had been third cousins. Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was three years old. Her sister Blanche Schrift later married George Boroff, who ran The Circle Theatre (now named El Centro Theatre) in Los Angeles. Winters studied at The New School in New York City.


As the New York Times obituary noted, "A major movie presence for more than five decades, Shelley Winters turned herself into a widely-respected actress who won two Oscars." Winters originally broke into Hollywood as "the Blonde Bombshell", but quickly tired of the role's limitations. She washed off her makeup and played against type to set up Elizabeth Taylor's beauty in A Place in the Sun, still a landmark American film. As the Associated Press reported, the general public was unaware of how serious a craftswoman Winters was. "Although she was in demand as a character actress, Winters continued to study her craft. She attended Charles Laughton's Shakespeare classes and worked at the Actors Studio, both as student and teacher." She studied in the Hollywood Studio Club, and in the late 1940s she shared an apartment with another newcomer, Marilyn Monroe.
Her first movie was What a Woman! (1943). Working in films (in mostly bit roles) through the 1940s, Winters first achieved stardom with her breakout performance as the victim of insane actor Ronald Colman in George Cukor's A Double Life, in 1947. She quickly ascended in Hollywood with leading roles in The Great Gatsby (1949) with Alan Ladd and Winchester 73 (1950), opposite James Stewart. But it was her performance in A Place in the Sun (1951), a departure from the sexpot image that her studio, Universal Pictures, was building up for her at the time, that first brought Winters her acclaim, earning a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Throughout the 1950s, Winters continued in films, including Meet Danny Wilson (1952) as Frank Sinatra's leading lady, most notably in Charles Laughton's 1955 Night of the Hunter, with Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish, and the less successful I Am A Camera starring opposite Julie Harris and Laurence Harvey. She also returned to the stage on various occasions during this time, including a Broadway run in A Hatful of Rain, in 1955-1956, opposite future husband Anthony Franciosa. She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank in 1960, and another award, in the same category, for A Patch of Blue in 1966. She donated her Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Notable later roles included her lauded performance as the man-hungry Charlotte in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita; starring opposite Michael Caine in Alfie; and as the once gorgeous, alcoholic former starlet "Fay Estabrook" whose emotional vulnerability the titular hero so cruelly exploits in Harper (both 1966); in The Poseidon Adventure (1972) as the ill-fated Belle Rosen (for which she received her final Oscar nomination); and in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976). She also returned to the stage during the 1960s and 1970s, most notably in Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana. She appeared in such cult films as 1968's Wild in the Streets and 1971's Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?.
As the Associated Press reported, "During her 50 years as a widely known personality, Winters was rarely out of the news. Her stormy marriages, her romances with famous stars, her forays into politics and feminist causes kept her name before the public. She delighted in giving provocative interviews and seemed to have an opinion on everything." That led to a second career as a writer. Though not an overwhelming beauty, her acting, wit, and "chutzpah" gave her a love life to rival Monroe's. In late life, she recalled her conquests in her autobiographies. She wrote of a yearly rendezvous she kept with William Holden, as well as her affairs with Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, Errol Flynn and Marlon Brando.
Winters had significant weight gain later in life, but lost much of the weight for (or before) an appearance at the 1998 Academy Awards telecast, which featured a tribute to Oscar winners past and present, at which a pantheon of former winners, including Gregory Peck, Claire Trevor, Jennifer Jones and Luise Rainer appeared.
Audiences born in the 1980s knew her primarily for the autobiographies and for her television work, in which she played a humorous parody of her public persona. In a recurring role in the 1990s, Winters played the title character's grandmother on the ABC sitcom Roseanne. Her final film roles were supporting ones - she played a restaurant owner and mother of an overweight cook in Heavy (1995), with Liv Tyler and Debbie Harry; The Portrait of a Lady (1996), starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich; and as an embittered nursing home administrator in 1999's Gideon.

Personal life

Winters was married four times; her husbands were:
  • Captain Mack Paul Mayer, whom she married on New Years Day, 1942; they divorced in October 1948. Mayer was unable to deal with Shelley's "Hollywood lifestyle" and wanted a "traditional homemaker" for a wife. Winters wore his wedding ring up until her death, and kept their relationship very private
  • Vittorio Gassman, whom she married on April 28, 1952; they divorced on June 2, 1954. They had one child, Vittoria born February 14, 1953, a physician, who practices internal medicine at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was Winters' only child.
  • Anthony Franciosa, whom she married on May 4, 1957; they divorced on November 18, 1960.
  • Gerry DeFord, on January 14, 2006, hours before her death.
Hours before her death, Winters married long-time companion Gerry DeFord, with whom she had lived for 19 years. Though Winters' daughter objected to the marriage, the actress Sally Kirkland performed the wedding ceremony for the two at Winters' deathbed. Kirkland, a minister of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, also performed non-denominational last rites for Winters.
Winters also had a romance with Farley Granger that became a long-term friendship (according to her autobiography Shelley Also Known As Shirley). She starred with him in the 1951 film, Behave Yourself!, as well as in a 1957 television production of A. J. Cronin's novel, Beyond This Place.


Winters died on January 14, 2006 of heart failure at the Rehabilitation Centre of Beverly Hills; she had suffered a heart attack on October 14, 2005. Her third ex-husband Anthony Franciosa died of a stroke five days later.

Awards and nominations
Year Award Film
1951 Best Actress in a Leading Role, nominated A Place in the Sun
1959 Best Actress in a Supporting Role, won The Diary of Anne Frank
1965 Best Actress in a Supporting Role, won A Patch of Blue
1972 Best Actress in a Supporting Role, nominated The Poseidon Adventure


There's Something About a Soldier (1943)
What a Woman! (1943)
The Racket Man (1944)
Sailor's Holiday (1944)
Knickerbocker Holiday (1944)
Cover Girl (1944)
She's a Soldier Too (1944)
Dancing in Manhattan (1944)
Together Again (1944)
Tonight and Every Night (1945)
Escape in the Fog (1945)
A Thousand and One Nights (1945)
The Fighting Guardsman (1946)
Two Smart People (1946)
Susie Steps Out (1946)
Abie's Irish Rose (1946)
Titanic, or Oh What A Big Ship (1946)
New Orleans (1947)
Living in a Big Way (1947)
The Gangster (1947)
A Double Life (1947)
Killer McCoy (1947)
Red River (1948) (uncredited)
Larceny (1948)
Cry of the City (1948)
Take One False Step (1949)
The Great Gatsby (1949)
Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949)
Winchester '73 (1950)
South Sea Sinner (1950)
Frenchie (1950)
He Ran All the Way (1951)
A Place in the Sun (1951)
Behave Yourself! (1951)
The Raging Tide (1951)
Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Phone Call from a Stranger (1952)
Untamed Frontier (1952)
My Man and I (1952)
Tennessee Champ (1954)
Saskatchewan (1954)
Playgirl (1954)
Executive Suite (1954)
Mambo (1954)
To Dorothy a Son (1954)
I Am a Camera (1955)
The Big Knife (1955)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955)
I Died a Thousand Times (1955)
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960)
The Young Savages (1961)
Lolita (1962)
The Chapman Report (1962)
The Balcony (1963)
Wives and Lovers (1963)
Time of Indifference (1964)
A House Is Not a Home (1964)
The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)
A Patch of Blue (1965)

The Three Sisters (1966)
Harper (1966)
Alfie (1966)
Enter Laughing (1967)
The Scalphunters (1968)
Wild in the Streets (1968)
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968)
The Mad Room (1969)
Arthur! Arthur! (1969)
Bloody Mama (1970)
How Do I Love Thee? (1970)
Flap (1970)
What's the Matter with Helen? (1971)
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971)
Something to Hide (1972)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Blume in Love (1973)
Cleopatra Jones (1973)
Poor Pretty Eddie (1974)
Journey into Fear (1975)
Diamonds (1975)
That Lucky Touch (1975)
The Scarlet Dahlia (1976)
Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976)
The Tenant (1976)
Mimì Bluette... Flower of My Garden (1977)
Black Journal (1977)
Tentacles (1977)
A Very Little Man (1977)
Pete's Dragon (1977)
King of the Gypsies (1978)
The Visitor (1979)
City on Fire (1979)
The Magician of Lublin (1979)
S.O.B. (1981)
Looping (1981)
Fanny Hill (1983)
Ellie (1984)
Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984)
Déjà Vu (1985)
Witchfire (1986)
Very Close Quarters (1986)
The Delta Force (1986)
Purple People Eater (1988)
An Unremarkable Life (1989)
Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (1990) (documentary)
Touch of a Stranger (1990)
Stepping Out (1991)
The Pickle (1993)
A Century of Cinema (1994) (documentary)
The Silence of the Hams (1994)
Heavy (1995)
Backfire! (1995)
Jury Duty (1995)
Mrs. Munck (1995)
Raging Angels (1995)
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Gideon (1999)
La Bomba (1999)
A-List (2006)


Of V We Sing (Between 1939-1941) (Off-Broadway)
The Time of Your Life (Between 1939-1941) (understudy for Judy Haydon) (Broadway)
Meet The People (1939?)(U.S. Touring Company)
The Night Before Christmas (1941) (Broadway)
Rosalinda (1942) (Broadway)
Conquered in April (Between 1942-1946) (Broadway)
Oklahoma! (replacement for Celeste Holm 1947) (Broadway)
A Hatful of Rain (1955) (Broadway)
Girls of Summer (1956) (Broadway and Summer Stock)
Invitation to March (1960) (Boston)
The Night of the Iguana (1962) (replacement for Bette Davis) (Broadway)
Under the Weather (1966) (Broadway)

LUV (1967) (Broadway)
One Night Stands of a Noisy Passenger (1970) (Writer) (Off-Broadway)
Minnie's Boys (1970) (Broadway)
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1973–74) (Broadway)
Cages(1974) (Philadelphia, PA)
Kennedy's Children (1976) (Chicago)
The Gingerbread Lady (1981) (Chicago)
Natural Affection (unknown)

Summer Stock Plays

The Taming of the Shrew (1947)
Born Yesterday (1950)
Wedding Breakfast (1955)
A Piece of Blue Sky (1959)
Two for the Seasaw (1960)
The Country Girl (1961)
A View from the Bridge (1961)
Days of the Dancing (1964)
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1965)


What's My Line (1954)
Wagon Train Series 1 Episode 4 - The Ruth Owens Story (1957)[4]
Beyond This Place (1957)
Wipe-Out (1963)
Batman (1966)
Here's Lucy (1968)
A Death of Innocence (1971)
Adventures of Nick Carter (1972)
The Devil's Daughter (1973)
Big Rose: Double Trouble (1974)
The Sex Symbol (1974)
Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976) (voice)
Kojak (1976)
The Initiation of Sarah (1978)
Elvis (1979)
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) (voice)
The French Atlantic Affair (1979) (miniseries)
Emma and Grandpa on the Farm (1983) (narrator)
Alice in Wonderland (1985)
Weep No More, My Lady (1992)
Roseanne (1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997)

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