Shelley Duvall

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Shelley Duvall
Shelley Duvall Bernice Bobs Her Hair 1977.JPG
Duvall in Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976)
Born Shelley Alexis Duvall
(1949-07-07) July 7, 1949 (age 64)
Houston, Texas,
United States
Alma mater South Texas Junior College
Occupation Actress, producer, writer
Years active 1970–2002
Spouse(s) Bernard Sampson (m. 1970; div. 1974)
Partner(s) Paul Simon
Stan Wilson
Cannes Film Festival
Best Actress
1977 3 Women

Shelley Alexis Duvall (born July 7, 1949 in Houston, Texas)[1][2] is an American actress and producer. Duvall began her career as a muse for Robert Altman, starring in a multitude of his films in the 1970s, including Brewster McCloud (1970), Thieves Like Us (1974), Nashville (1975), and 3 Women (1977) which won her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress as well as a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress. Duvall had a supporting role in Annie Hall (1977) before starring in lead roles in Altman's Popeye (1980), and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980).

Later, Duvall had roles in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981), Tim Burton's Frankenweenie (1984), and Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady (1996). She is also an Emmy-nominated producer, responsible for Faerie Tale Theatre and other kid-friendly programming.


Early career[edit]

Shelley Duvall was born in Houston, Texas to lawyer, Robert Duvall (not to be confused with the actor Robert Duvall), and his wife Bobby. Duvall is one of four children born to the couple, and the only girl. She has three brothers, Scott, Shane and Stewart.[3]

It was at a party Duvall was throwing in Houston, for her fiancé Bernard Sampson's (m. 1970; div. 1974) artwork, where she met Robert Altman.[4] Altman was on location shooting his forthcoming film, Brewster McCloud. When he offered Duvall a role in the film, she refused because she was a student. She attended South Texas Junior College where she studied to be a research scientist. Later, a call came urging her to take a screen test:

"I got tired of arguing, and thought maybe I am an actress. They told me to come. I simply got on a plane and did it. I was swept away."

Prior to Altman offering Duvall the role, she had never left Texas. When she got off of the plane, she not only landed in Hollywood, she landed the role of the free-spirited love interest to Bud Cort's reclusive Brewster in Brewster McCloud.[5]

The 1970's[edit]

Following Brewster McCloud, Altman was so Impressed with Duvall's performance, he gave her roles in his forthcoming films: an unsatisfied Mail-order bride in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971); a cola-drinking country girl of a convict, and mistress to Keith Carradine’s character in Thieves Like Us (1974); a spaced-out cartoon character of a groupie who cannot find time to visit her dying aunt in Nashville (1975), and a sympathetic woman in the midst of the Wild West, in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976).

The same year, Duvall broke away from Altman to star as the title character, a wealthy girl from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in PBS’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Bernice Bobs Her Hair. She also hosted an evening of Saturday Night Live – Episode: "Shelley Duvall/Joan Armatrading". Duvall appeared in five sketches: "Programming Change", "Video Vixens", "Night of the Moonies", "Van Arguments", and "Goodnights".[6]

In 1977, Duvall starred as the flaky and talkative Mildred "Millie" Lammoreaux, in Altman's 3 Women. Duvall's performance garnered the award for Best Actress at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the LAFCA Award for Best Actress. While Duvall was shooting in New York for her bit part in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977), she met singer/songwriter Paul Simon. They lived together for two years – their relationship ended when Duvall introduced Simon to her friend, actress Carrie Fisher. Fisher took up with Simon.[7]

The 1980's[edit]

Duvall's next role was Wendy Torrance opposite Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980). Nicholson states in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures that Kubrick was great to work with but that he was "a different director" with Duvall. Due to Kubrick's highly methodical nature, principal photography took a year to complete. Perhaps the most notorious example of this was Kubrick's insistence that she and Nicholson perform 127 takes of the baseball bat scene, which broke a world record for the most retakes of a single movie scene with spoken dialogue.[8] Kubrick and Duvall had frequent arguments although Duvall later said she learned more from working with Kubrick on The Shining than she did on all her previous films.[9]

Next, Duvall appeared as Olive Oyl in Altman's big-screen adaptation of Popeye, a role Roger Ebert believes she was born to play:

"Shelley Duvall is a like a precious piece of china with a tinkling personality. She looks and sounds like almost nobody else, and if it is true that she was born to play the character Olive Oyl (and does so in Altman’s new musical Popeye), it is also true that she has possible played more really different kinds of characters than almost any other actress of the 1970s."[10]

Shortly before the release of her forthcoming role in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, it was reported that Duvall and actor Stanley Wilson (the town’s barber in Popeye), were set to marry. However, no further reports were released regarding this.[11]

In 1982, Duvall served as narrator, host and executive producer of the program, Faerie Tale Theatre. She starred in seven episodes throughout the series: "Rumpelstiltskin" (1983), "Rapunzel" (1983), "The Nightingale" (1983), "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1984), "Puss in Boots" (1985), and "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" (1986). Since the program's first episode (“The Frog Prince” which starred Robin Williams and Teri Garr), Duvall has produced 27 hour-long episodes for Faerie Tale Theatre. In 1985, she created Tall Tales & Legends, another one-hour anthology series for Showtime, this one featuring adaptations of American folk tales. As with Faerie Tale Theatre, the series starred well-known Hollywood actors, with Duvall serving as host, executive producer, and occasional guest star. The series ran for only nine episodes but garnered Duvall an Emmy nomination.

During the time Duvall was producing Faerie Tale Theatre, it was reported that she was to star as the lead in the film adaptation of Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The film was to star Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, her sister Cindy, and Sissy Spacek.[12] The project was pushed back, and when it released in 1993, it starred an entirely different cast.

In addition, she landed roles in films and television series: a mother of a devastated boy whose dog is struck by car in Tim Burton's short, Frankenweenie (1984), a lonely and timid woman whose life changes after she receives a message from a flying saucer in The Twlight Zone – Episode: “The Once and Future King/A Saucer of Loneliness” (segment: A Saucer of Loneliness”), and the title character's friend in the Steve Martin comedy Roxanne (1987).

In 1988, Duvall founded a new production company called Think Entertainment to develop programs and made-for-TV movies for cable channels. Under the banner of Think Entertainment she created Nightmare Classics (1989), a third Showtime anthology series. It featured adaptations of well-known horror stories by such authors as Edgar Allan Poe. Unlike the previous two series, Nightmare Classics was aimed at a teenage and adult audience. It was the least successful series that Duvall produced for Showtime, running for only four episodes.

The 1990's[edit]

In 1991, Duvall played Jenny Wilcox, wife of Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd) in the Hulk Hogan action-adventure, Suburban Commando. The start of a new decade found Duvall playing small roles, she played Christopher Lloyd's wife, in the Hulk Hogan film, Suburban Commando (1991).

In 1992, Think Entertainment joined forces with the newly formed Universal Family Entertainment to create Duvall's fourth Showtime original series, Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories, which featured animated adaptations of children's storybooks with celebrity narrators. It earned her a second Emmy nomination. Duvall produced a fifth series for Showtime, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, before selling Think Entertainment in 1993 and retiring as a producer. Duvall's efforts in producing have garnered her many awards: six CableACE Awards, and one Peabody Award.[13]

In 1994, she landed a guest spot on the television series L.A. Law. She assumed the role of Margo Stanton, a show dog owner and breeder, who presses charges against an owner of a Welsh Corgi that mounted itself on her prize-winning Afghan Hound.

In 1996, she appeared as the vain, over-friendly, but harmless Countess Gemini, sister to the calculating Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich), in Jane Campion's 1996 adaptation of the Henry James novel - The Portrait of a Lady. A year later, she played a swooned, ostrich-farm owner in Guy Maddin's fourth feature, Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. The same year she played the gullible, and yearning of a better life wife to Chris Cooper’s character in Horton Foote's made-for-television film, Alone.

Duvall continued to make film and television appearances throughout the late-1990's. In 1998, she played Drew Barrymore's mother in the comedy Home Fries and Hilary Duff's aunt in the direct-to-video children's film Casper Meets Wendy.

Nearing the end of the decade, she returned to the horror genre with Tale of the Mummy (1998), and The 4th Floor (1999).

The 2000's[edit]

The 2000's found Duvall assuming minor roles, that of which were Matthew Lawrence's character's mother in the horror-comedy Boltneck, Haylie Duff's aunt in the independent family film Dreams in the Attic, which was shopped to the Disney Channel but never released.[14] Her most recent acting appearance was a small role in the 2002 independent film Manna from Heaven.


Selected film credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1970 Brewster McCloud Suzanne Davis acting debut
1971 McCabe & Mrs. Miller Ida Coyle
1974 Thieves Like Us Keechie
1975 Nashville L. A. Joan
1976 Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson Mrs. Grover Cleveland
1977 Annie Hall Pam
3 Women Millie Lammoreaux
1980 Popeye Olive Oyl
The Shining Wendy Torrance
1981 Time Bandits Pansy
1987 Roxanne Dixie
1991 Suburban Commando Jenny Wilcox
1996 The Portrait of a Lady Countess Gemini
1997 Twilight of the Ice Nymphs Amelia Glahn
1998 Home Fries Mrs. Jackson
Casper Meets Wendy Gabby Direct-to-video
Tale of the Mummy Edith Butros
1999 The 4th Floor Martha Stewart

Selected television credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1976 Bernice Bobs Her Hair Bernice TV film
1982-1987 Faerie Tale Theatre Host
Various roles
Creator, Executive Producer
1985-1987 Tall Tales & Legends Host
Various roles
Creator, Executive Producer
1986 The Twilight Zone Margaret Episode: "A Saucer of Loneliness"
1989 Nightmare Classics Creator, Executive Producer
1992-1993 Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories Host
Various roles
1994 Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Creator, Executive Producer
L.A. Law Margo Stanton Episode: "Tunnel of Love"
1997 Alone Estelle TV film

Selected short credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1984 Frankenweenie Susan Frankenstein

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Work Award Category Result
1977 3 Women LAFCA Award Best Actress Won
3 Women 1977 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Won
1978 3 Women BAFTA Award Best Actress Nominated
1981 The Shining Razzie Award Worst Actress Nominated

Source:"Shelley Duvall". IMDb. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 


  1. ^
  2. ^ Film Reference
  3. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (March 23, 1977). "Shelley Duvall, An Unlikely Star". New York Times. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Kort, Michele (December 15, 1991). "SHELLEY DUVALL GROWS UP : There's a Lot of the Kid Left in the Tenacious Producer Who Put Cable on the Map and Breathed New Life into Children's TV". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Taylor, Clarke (November 6, 1977). "How Did Shelley Duvall Become a Star". Boca Raton News. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Season 2: Episode 21". Saturday Night Live Transcripts. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Armstrong, Lois (March 16, 1981). "Olive's Wasn't the Only 'Popeye' Love Story—Shelley Duvall Snagged a Prince Charming Too". People. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "Top 10 Most Maniacal Holiday Movies". Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 4, 1981). "Shelley Duvall Was Ripe for Role of Olive". N.Y. Times Wire Service. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  11. ^ "Shelley Duvalls Announces Plans to Marry This Year". St. Petersburg Times. April 13, 1981. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  12. ^ Wilson, Earl (November 25, 1981). "It's Thumbs Up for Shelley Duvall". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 13 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Shelley Duvall - Awards". Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Haylie Duff's Movie Info Site". Retrieved 2012-02-17. 

External links[edit]