Winters in a studio publicity photo c. 1951
August 18, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
January 14, 2006 (aged 85)|
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.|
|Alma mater||The New School|
Shelley Winters (born Shirley Schrift; August 18, 1920 – January 14, 2006) was an American actress whose career spanned five decades.
She appeared in numerous films, and won Academy Awards for The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and A Patch of Blue (1965), and received nominations for A Place in the Sun (1951) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Other roles Winters appeared in include A Double Life (1947), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Lolita (1962), Alfie (1966), and Pete's Dragon (1977).
In addition to film, Winters also appeared in television, including a years-long tenure on the sitcom Roseanne, and also authored three autobiographical books.
Shelley 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 emigrated from Austria, and her mother was born in St. Louis to Austrian immigrants. Her parents were third cousins.
Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was 9 years old, and she grew up partly in Queens, New York, as well. As a young woman, she worked as a model. Her sister Blanche Schrift later married George Boroff, who ran the Circle Theatre (now named El Centro Theatre) in Los Angeles. At age 16, Winters relocated to Los Angeles, California, and later returned to New York to study acting at the New School.
Early work; breakthrough
Winters originally broke into Hollywood films as a Blonde Bombshell type, but quickly tired of the role's limitations. She claims to have washed off her make-up to audition for the role of Alice Tripp, the factory girl, in A Place in the Sun, directed by George Stevens, now 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 film appearance was in 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 in Winchester 73 (1950), opposite James Stewart. Her performance in A Place in the Sun (1951), a departure from the sexpot image that her studio, Universal Pictures, was grooming her for at the time, brought Winters her first acclaim, earning her 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, 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 as Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank in 1960, and another, 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 Haze in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita; starring opposite Michael Caine in Alfie; and as the fading, alcoholic former starlet Fay Estabrook in Harper (both 1966). In The Poseidon Adventure (1972), she was the ill-fated Belle Rosen (for which she received her final Oscar nomination), and also appeared in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976). She 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?. She also starred in the 1970 Broadway musical Minnie's Boys as Minnie Marx, the mother of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo Marx.
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 a conventional beauty, she claimed that her acting, wit, and "chutzpah" gave her a love life to rival Monroe's. Her alleged "conquests" included William Holden, Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster, Errol Flynn, and Marlon Brando.
Later audiences knew her primarily for her autobiographies and for her television work, in which she usually 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, an aristocrat in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich, and an embittered nursing home administrator in 1999's Gideon.
Winters was married four times. Her husbands were:
- Captain Mack Paul Mayer, whom she married on December 29, 1942 in Brooklyn; 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 in Juarez, Mexico; 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, whom she married on January 14, 2006.
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 claims to have 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 was a Democrat and attended the 1960 Democratic National Convention. In 1965, she addressed the Selma marchers briefly outside Montgomery on the night before they marched into the state capitol.
She became friendly with rock singer Janis Joplin shortly before Joplin died in 1970. Winters invited Joplin to sit in on a class session at the Actors' Studio at its Los Angeles location. Joplin never did.
Winters died at the age of 85 on January 14, 2006, of heart failure at the Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills; she had suffered a heart attack on October 14, 2005. Her body was interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City. Her third former husband, Anthony Franciosa, had a stroke on the day she died and died five days later.
|1954||The Ford Television Theatre||Sally Marland||Episode: "Mantrap"|
|1955||Producers' Showcase||Crystal Allen||Episode: "The Women"|
|1957||The Alcoa Hour||Pat Kroll||Episode: "A Double Life"|
|The United States Steel Hour||Evvie||Episode: "Inspired Alibi"|
|Wagon Train||Ruth Owens||Episode: "The Ruth Owens Story"|
|Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Mildred Corrigan||Episode: "Smarty"|
|DuPont Show of the Month||Louisa Burt||Episode: "Beyond This Place"|
|1960||Play of the Week||Rose||Episode: A Piece of Blue Sky|
|1962||Alcoa Premiere||Meg Fletcher
|Episode: "The Way From Darkness"|
Episode: "The Cake Baker"
|1964||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Jenny Dworak||Episode: "Two is the Number"|
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
|1965||Thirty-Minute Theatre||Mrs. Bixby||Episode: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat"|
|Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Edith||Episode: "Back to Back"|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Drama
|1966||Batman||Ma Parker||Episode: "The Greatest Mother of Them All"|
Episode: "Ma Parker"
|1967||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Clarry Golden||Episode: "Wipeout"|
|1968||Here's Lucy||Shelley Summers||Episode: "Lucy and Miss Shelley Winters"|
|1971||A Death of Innocence||Elizabeth Cameron||Television film|
|1972||Adventures of Nick Carter||Bess Tucker|
|1973||The Devil's Daughter||Lilith Malone|
|1974||Big Rose: Double Trouble||Rose Winters|
|The Sex Symbol||Agathy Murphy|
|McCloud||Thelma||Episode: "The Barefoot Girls of Bleecker Street"|
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Comedy or Drama Series
|1975||Chico and the Man||Shirley Schrift||Episode: "Ed Steps Out"|
|1976||Frosty's Winter Wonderland||Crystal (voice)||Television film|
|1978||Kojak||Evelyn McNeil||Episode: "The Captain's Brother's Wife"|
|The Initiation of Sarah||Mrs. Erica Hunter||Television film|
|1979||Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July||Crystal (voice)||Television film|
|Vega$||J.D. Fenton||Episode: "Macho Murders"|
|1982||The Love Boat||Teresa Rosselli||Episode: "Venetian Love Song/Down for the Count/Arrividerci, Gopher/The Arrangement"|
|1983||Parade of Stars||Sophie Tucker||Television film|
|1984||Hotel||Adele Ellsworth||Episode: "Trials"|
|Hawaiian Heat||Florence Senkowski||Episode: "Andy's Mom"|
|1985||Alice in Wonderland||The Dodo Bird||Television film|
|1987||The Sleeping Beauty||Fairy|
|1991–1996||Roseanne||Nana Mary||10 episodes|
- Of V We Sing (between 1939 and 1941) (Off-Broadway)
- The Time of Your Life (between 1939 and 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 and 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)
- 84 Charing Cross Road (1983)
|1953||Lux Radio Theatre||Phone Call from a Stranger|
- Winters, Shelley (1980). Shelley: Also known as Shirley. Morrow. ISBN 978-0-688-03638-6.
- Winters, Shelley (1989). Shelley II: The Middle of My Century. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-44210-4.
- Shelley: The Middle of My Century (audiobook; audio cassette)
- Harmetz, Aljean (January 15, 2006). "Shelley Winters, Tough-Talking Oscar Winner in 'Anne Frank' and 'Patch of Blue', Dies". New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "Shelley Winters". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Winters, Shelley (1988). "Shelley Winters". Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood (Interview). Interviewed by Skip E. Lowe.
- 1930 United States Federal Census
- 1940 United States Federal Census
- Collins, Glenn (April 7, 1994). "Actors Studio to Teach Program at New School". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Grant, James (April 9, 1995). "Movies: OFF-CENTERPIECE: Dishing the Dirt With Shelley: At 72, Shelley Winters shows no sign of slowing down--but she'll stop long enough to talk about Marilyn, Monty, and the men in her life". The Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
- Winters, Shelley (1980). Shelley: Also known as Shirley. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03638-4.
- "Overview for Shelley Winters". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995
- Washington Post Marriages, 1952
- 1960 Democratic Convention Los Angeles Committee for the Arts. YouTube. 1960.
- Adler, Renata (April 10, 1965). "Letter from Selma". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Amburn, Ellis (October 1992). Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin: A Biography. Time Warner. ISBN 0-446-51640-6.
- Kirby, Walter (January 4, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Shelley Winters at TVGuide.com
- Bernstein, Adam (January 14, 2006). "Actress Shelley Winters Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Harmetz, Aljean (January 15, 2006). "Shelley Winters, Winner of Two Oscars, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- Bernstein, Adam (January 15, 2006). "Actress Shelley Winters, 85; Blond Bombshell to Oscar Winner". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
- "Oscar winner Shelley Winters dies at 85". The Boston Globe. January 15, 2006.[permanent dead link]
- Winters' Entry on the St. Louis Walk of Fame
- Shelley Winters in an exclusive interview about acting
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