Shelley Winters

Biography

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." Her first movie was What a Woman! (1943). Working in films (in mostly bit roles) through the forties, Winters' first achieved stardom with her breakout performance as the victim of insane actor Ronald Colman in George Cukor's A Double Life, in 1948. She quickly ascended in Hollywood with leading roles in The Great Gatsby (1949) and Winchester 73 (1950), opposite James Stewart. But it was A Place in the Sun, a departure from the sexpot image that her studio, Universal Pictures, was building up for her at the time. It was this performance that first brought Shelley Winters acclaim as an actress, earning a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Throughout the 1950s, Winters continued in films, most notably in Charles Laughton's masterpiece, 1955s Night of the Hunter, with Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish. She also returned to the stage on various occasions during this time, including a Broadway run in A Hatful of Rain. In 1959, she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank and another for A Patch of Blue (1965). Notable later roles included her lauded performance as the man-hungry Charlotte in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, opposite Michael Caine in Alfie, as the once gorgeous, alcoholic former starlet "Fay Estabrook" 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. Unfortunately, her prestigious work during this period tended to be undermined by her forays into camp kitsch with films like 1968s Wild in the Streets and 1971s Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?. Always conscious of her Jewish heritage—she had first learned her trade in the Borscht Belt—she donated her Oscar for Anne Frank to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. As the Associated Press reported, "During her fifty 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 autobiographies so popular they undermined her reputation as a serious actor. She wrote of a yearly rendezvous she kept with William Holden, as well as her affairs with Sean Connery, Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando. Winters suffered a significant weight gain later in life, frequently stating that it was a marketing tool, since there were plenty of prominent normal-weight older actresses but fewer overweight ones, and her obesity would enable her to find work more easily. In 1973 Winters even put on a short-lived Broadway musical revue entitled "The Hoofing Hollywood Heifer", co-starring Charles Nelson Reilly and Bongo, a tap-dancing chimp. Although it closed after only eight performances, this show was applauded for its sheer campy bravado by many critics, one of whom stated that Winters was a "Whale of a Talent looking for a sea of applause big enough to rest her massive girth." 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, as John Gielgud's wife in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), and as a bitter nursing home administrator in 1999s Gideon.

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Person Photo

Birth Name

Shirley Schrift

Birth Place

St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Birth Date

8/18/1920

Death Date

1/14/2006
Known For
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The Night of the Hunter

Willa Harper

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Lolita

Charlotte Haze

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The Diary of Anne Frank

Mrs. Petronella Van Daan

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Winchester '73

Lola Manners

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Alfie

Ruby

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Elvis - The Movie

Gladys Presley

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Cleopatra Jones

Mommy

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A Place in the Sun

Alice Tripp

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Tentacles

Tillie Turner

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Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Crystal (voice)

Starring In
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My Darling Vivian

Self (archive footage)

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The Fabulous Allan Carr

Self (archive footage)

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Sing Your Song

Self (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Oscarverleihung 2006

Herself - Memorial sequence (archive footage)

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Chump Change

Belle Rosen (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Delta Force

Edie Kaplan

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The Portrait of a Lady

Mrs. Touchett

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Marilyn Monroe - The Mortal Goddess

Herself

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Heavy

Dolly Modino

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Jury Duty

Mrs. Collins

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The Silence of the Hams

Mrs. Motel (The Mother)

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The Pickle

Yetta

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Weep No More, My Lady

Vivian Morgan

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Stepping Out

Mrs. Fraser

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Steve McQueen: Man on the Edge

Self

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Purple People Eater

Rita

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Hello Actors Studio

Self

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The Delta Force

Edie Kaplan

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Alice in Wonderland

The Dodo Bird

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Deja Vu

Olga Nabokova

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George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey

Self (archive footage)

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Hollywood Out-Takes and rare Footage

Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)

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Fanny Hill

Mrs. Cole

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S.O.B.

Eva Brown

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Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July

Crystal (voice)

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Elvis - The Movie

Gladys Presley

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City on Fire

Nurse Andrea Harper

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The Visitor

Jane Phillips

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King of the Gypsies

Queen Rachel

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The Initiation of Sarah

Mrs. Erica Hunter

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Un borghese piccolo piccolo

Amalia Vivaldi

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Pete's Dragon

Lena Gogan

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Tentacles

Tillie Turner

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Black Journal

Lea

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Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Crystal (voice)

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The Tenant

The Concierge

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Next Stop, Greenwich Village

Mom / Faye Lapinsky

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Diamonds

Zelda Shapiro

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Journey Into Fear

Mrs. Mathews

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That Lucky Touch

Diana Steedeman

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Poor Pretty Eddie

Bertha

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Best of Match Game DVD Collection

Herself (5 episodes, 1973)

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The Stone Killer

Drunk Woman in Police Station (uncredited)

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Cleopatra Jones

Mommy

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La Figlia del Diavolo

Lilith Malone

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Blume in Love

Mrs. Cramer

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The Poseidon Adventure

Belle Rosen

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Adventures of Nick Carter

Bess Tucker

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Something to Hide

Gabriella

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Revenge!

Amanda Hilton

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Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?

Mrs. Forrest

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What's the Matter with Helen?

Helen

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How Do I Love Thee?

Lena Mervin

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Bloody Mama

'Ma' Kate Barker

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Das Haus der blutigen Hände

Mrs. Armstrong

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The Scalphunters

Kate

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Wild in the Streets

Daphne Flatow

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Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell

Shirley Newman

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Enter Laughing

Emma Kolowitz

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Harper

Fay Estabrook

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Alfie

Ruby

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A Patch of Blue

Rose-Ann D'Arcey

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The Greatest Story Ever Told

Woman who is healed

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The Legend of Marilyn Monroe

Herself (uncredited)

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A House Is Not a Home

Polly Adler

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Wives and Lovers

Fran Cabrell

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The Balcony

Madame Irma

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Lolita

Charlotte Haze

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Der Chapman-Report

Sarah Garnell

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The Young Savages

Mary diPace

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Odds Against Tomorrow

Lorry

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The Diary of Anne Frank

Mrs. Petronella Van Daan

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The Night of the Hunter

Willa Harper

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I Am a Camera

Natalia Landauer

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The Treasure of Pancho Villa

Ruth Harris

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He Muerto Mil Veces

Marie Garson

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The Big Knife

Dixie Evans (as Miss Shelley Winters)

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Saskatchewan

Grace Markey

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Executive Suite

Eva Bardeman

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Mambo

Toni Salerno

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Playgirl

Fran Davis

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Phone Call from a Stranger

Binky Gay

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My Man and I

Nancy

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Der Tag der Vergeltung

Jane Stevens

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The Raging Tide

Connie Thatcher

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He Ran All the Way

Peggy Dobbs

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A Place in the Sun

Alice Tripp

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Behave Yourself

Kate Denny

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Zu allem entschlossen

Joy Carroll

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Winchester '73

Lola Manners

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South Sea Sinner

Coral

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Frenchie

Frenchie Fontaine

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The Great Gatsby

Myrtle Wilson

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Take One False Step

Catherine Sykes

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Johnny Stool Pigeon

Terry Stewart

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Red River

Dance Hall Girl in Wagon Train (uncredited)

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Larceny

Tory

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Cry of the City

Brenda Martingale

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A Double Life

Pat Kroll

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Killer McCoy

Waitress / Autograph Hound (uncredited)

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The Gangster

Hazel - Cashier (uncredited)

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New Orleans

Miss Holmbright (uncredited)

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Two Smart People

Princess (uncredited)

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Escape in the Fog

Taxi Driver (uncredited)

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Tonight and Every Night

Bubbles (uncredited)

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Knickerbocker Holiday

Ulda Tienhoven (as Shelley Winter)

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Together Again

Young Woman Fleeing Nightclub Raid (uncredited)

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