Winters in 1951
August 18, 1920
|Died||January 14, 2006 (aged 85)|
|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 almost six 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 include A Double Life (1947), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Lolita (1962), Alfie (1966), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976), 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 St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre, 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 nine 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.
Winters made her Broadway debut in The Night Before Christmas (1941) which had a short run. She had a small part in Rosalinda, an adaptation of Die Fledermaus (1942-44) which ran for 611 performances.
She received a long-term contract at Columbia and moved to Los Angeles. Winters' first film appearance was an uncredited bit in There's Something About a Soldier (1943) at Columbia. She had another small bit in What a Woman! (1943) but a bigger part in a B movie, Sailor's Holiday (1944).
Winters was borrowed by the Producers Releasing Corporation for Knickerbocker Holiday (1944). Columbia put her small bits in 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), and The Fighting Guardsman (1946).
Winters first achieved stardom with her breakout performance as the victim of insane actor Ronald Colman in George Cukor's A Double Life (1947). It was distributed by Universal which signed Winters to a long-term contract.
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 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.
At Universal she did Meet Danny Wilson (1952) with Frank Sinatra and Untamed Frontier (1952) with Joseph Cotten. She went to MGM for My Man and I (1952) with Ricardo Montalbán. She performed in A Streetcar Named Desire on stage in Los Angeles.
Winters took off some time for the birth of her first child.[when?] She made her TV debut in "Mantrap" for The Ford Television Theatre in 1954. At MGM she did Executive Suite (1954) and Tennessee Champ (1954), top billed in the latter.
Winters returned to Universal to appear in Saskatchewan (1954), shot on location in Canada with Alan Ladd and Playgirl (1954) with Barry Sullivan. She also appeared in a TV version of Sorry, Wrong Number.
Winters performed in a version of The Women for Producers' Showcase then had a key role in I Am a Camera (1955) starring opposite Julie Harris and Laurence Harvey. Even more highly acclaimed was Charles Laughton's 1955 Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish.
At Warner Bros, Winters was Jack Palance's leading lady in I Died a Thousand Times (1955), then for RKO she co starred with Rory Calhoun in The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955). She was also in The Big Knife (1955) for Robert Aldrich.
On TV she reprised her Double Life performance in The Alcoa Hour in 1957. She appeared in episodes of The United States Steel Hour, Climax!, Wagon Train, Schlitz Playhouse, The DuPont Show of the Month, and Kraft Theatre.
In 1960 she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Mrs. Van Daan in George Stevens' film adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). She donated her award statuette to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
Winters was in much demand as a character actor now, getting good roles in Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) and The Young Savages (1961). She received excellent reviews for her performance as the man-hungry Charlotte Haze in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962).
Many of her roles now had a sexual component: in The Chapman Report (1962) she played an unfaithful housewife and she played madams in The Balcony (1963) and A House Is Not a Home (1964). She also appeared in Wives and Lovers (1963) and episodes of shows such as Alcoa Theatre, Ben Casey, and Thirty-Minute Theatre.
Winters was also featured in the Italian film Time of Indifference (1964) with Rod Steiger and Claudia Cardinale, and had one of the many cameos in the religious epic The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), again for George Stevens.
Winters won another Best Supporting Actress Oscar in A Patch of Blue (1965). She had good supporting parts opposite Michael Caine in Alfie (1966); and as the fading, alcoholic former starlet Fay Estabrook in Harper (1966).
She returned to Broadway in Under the Weather (1966) by Saul Bellow which ran for 12 performances.
Winters played "Ma Parker" the villain in Batman. She was in a TV version of The Three Sisters (1966) and had roles in Enter Laughing (1967) for Carl Reiner, Armchair Theatre, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (several episodes), The Scalphunters (1968) for Sydney Pollack, Wild in the Streets (1968), Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (1968), Arthur? Arthur! (1969), and The Mad Room (1969).
She returned to the stage to play Minnie Marx, mother of the Marx Brothers in the Broadway musical Minnie's Boys (1970), which ran for 80 performances. Winters wrote an evening of three one act plays, One Night Stands of a Noisy Passenger (1970-71) which ran for seven performances; the cast included Robert De Niro and Diane Ladd.
Winters was top billed in The Devil's Daughter (1973) for TV. She had a support role in Blume in Love (1973) for Paul Mazursky and Cleopatra Jones (1973) and lead parts in Big Rose: Double Trouble (1974) and The Sex Symbol (1974).
Winters guest starred on shows like McCloud and Chico and the Man and could be seen in Poor Pretty Eddie (1975), That Lucky Touch (1975), Journey Into Fear (1975), Diamonds (1975), Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976) for Paul Mazursky, The Tenant (1976) for Roman Polanski, Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino (1977) with Monica Vitti, Tentacles (1977) a horror film with John Huston, An Average Little Man (1977) with Alberto Sordi, Pete's Dragon (1977), The Initiation of Sarah (1978), and King of the Gypsies (1978).
She starred in a 1978 Broadway production of Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, which only had a short run.
Winters could still command top billing on occasion, as in the Italian horror film Gran bollito (1979). She played Gladys Presley in Elvis (1979) for TV. She was in The Visitor (1979), City on Fire (1979), The Magician of Lublin (1979) for Menahem Golan, The French Atlantic Affair (1979) and an episode of Vega$.
In 1980 Winters published a best-selling autobiography, Shelley: Also Known As Shirley  She followed it up in 1989 with a second memoir, Shelley II: The Middle of My Century.
Winters' 1980s performances included Looping (1981), S.O.B., episodes of The Love Boat, Sex, Lies and Renaissance (1983), Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984) for Menahem Golan, Ellie (1984), Déjà Vu (1985), Alice in Wonderland (1985), and The Delta Force (1986) again for Golan. She did The Gingerbread Lady on stage.
She had a starring role in Witchfire (1986) and was also credited as executive producer.
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 for James Mangold, 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. She was also in comedies such as Backfire! (1995), Jury Duty (1995), and Mrs. Munck (1995), as well as Raging Angels (1995).
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.
Winters was married four times. Her husbands were:
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 much-publicized romance with Farley Granger that became a long-term friendship (according to their respective autobiographies). 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. She is interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City. Her third former husband, Anthony Franciosa, had a stroke on the same day she died, and died five days later.
|1943||There's Something About a Soldier||Norma||Uncredited|
|What a Woman!||Secretary|
|1944||Sailor's Holiday||Gloria Flynn||Credited as Shelley Winter|
|Knickerbocker Holiday||Ulda Tienhoven|
|Cover Girl||Chorus Girl||Uncredited|
|She's a Soldier Too||'Silver' Rankin|
|Dancing in Manhattan||Margie|
|Together Again||Young Woman Fleeing Nightclub Raid|
|1945||Tonight and Every Night||Bubbles|
|Escape in the Fog||Taxi Driver|
|A Thousand and One Nights||Handmaiden|
|1946||The Fighting Guardsman||Nanette|
|Two Smart People||Princess|
|Susie Steps Out||Female Singer|
|Abie's Irish Rose||Bridesmaid||Uncredited|
|1947||New Orleans||Ms. Holmbright|
|Living in a Big Way||Junior League Girl|
|The Gangster||Hazel - Cashier|
|Killer McCoy||Waitress / Autograph Hound|
|A Double Life||Pat Kroll|
|1948||Red River||Dance Hall Girl in Wagon Train||Uncredited|
|Cry of the City||Brenda Martingale|
|1949||Take One False Step||Catherine Sykes|
|The Great Gatsby||Myrtle Wilson|
|Johnny Stool Pigeon||Terry Stewart|
|1950||Winchester '73||Lola Manners|
|South Sea Sinner||Coral|
|1951||A Place in the Sun||Alice Tripp|
|He Ran All the Way||Peggy Dobbs|
|Behave Yourself!||Kate Denny|
|The Raging Tide||Connie Thatcher|
|1952||Phone Call from a Stranger||Binky Gay|
|Meet Danny Wilson||Joy Carroll|
|Untamed Frontier||Jane Stevens|
|My Man and I||Nancy|
|1954||Tennessee Champ||Sarah Wurble|
|Executive Suite||Eva Bardeman|
|To Dorothy a Son||Myrtle La Mar|
|1955||I Am a Camera||Natalia Landauer|
|The Night of the Hunter||Willa Harper|
|The Big Knife||Dixie Evans||Credited as Miss Shelley Winters|
|The Treasure of Pancho Villa||Ruth Harris|
|I Died a Thousand Times||Marie Garson|
|1959||The Diary of Anne Frank||Mrs. Petronella Van Daan||Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|Odds Against Tomorrow||Lorry|
|1960||Let No Man Write My Epitaph||Nellie Romano|
|1961||The Young Savages||Mary diPace|
|The Chapman Report||Sarah Garnell|
|1963||The Balcony||Madame Irma|
|Wives and Lovers||Fran Cabrell|
|1964||A House Is Not a Home||Polly Adler|
|Time of Indifference||Lisa|
|1965||The Greatest Story Ever Told||Healed Woman|
|A Patch of Blue||Rose-Ann D'Arcey||Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|The Three Sisters||Natalya|
|1967||Enter Laughing||Mrs. Emma Kolowitz|
|Wild in the Streets||Mrs. Daphne Flatow|
|Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell||Shirley Newman|
|1969||The Mad Room||Mrs. Armstrong|
|Arthur? Arthur!||Hester Green|
|1970||Bloody Mama||"Ma" Kate Barker|
|How Do I Love Thee?||Lena Marvin|
|1971||What's the Matter with Helen?||Helen|
|Revenge!||Amanda Hilton||Television film|
|1972||Something to Hide||Gabriella|
|Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?||Mrs. Forrest|
|The Poseidon Adventure||Belle Rosen|
|1973||Blume in Love||Mrs. Cramer|
|The Stone Killer||Drunk Woman in Police Station||Cameo; uncredited|
|1975||Poor Pretty Eddie||Bertha|
|That Lucky Touch||Diana Steedeman|
|Journey Into Fear||Mrs. Mathews|
|1976||La dahlia scarlatta||Catrina|
|The Tenant||The Concierge|
|Next Stop, Greenwich Village||Faye Lapinsky|
|Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino||Caterina|
|An Average Little Man||Amalia Vivaldi|
|Pete's Dragon||Lena Gogan|
|1978||King of the Gypsies||Queen Rachel|
|1979||The French Atlantic Affair||Helen Wabash|
|The Visitor||Jane Phillips|
|City on Fire||Nurse Andrea Harper|
|The Magician of Lublin||Elzbieta|
|1983||Fanny Hill||Mrs. Cole|
|1984||Over the Brooklyn Bridge||Becky|
|1985||Déjà Vu||Olga Nabokova|
|1986||The Delta Force||Edie Kaplan|
|Very Close Quarters||Galina|
|1988||Purple People Eater||Rita|
|1989||An Unremarkable Life||Evelyn McEllany|
|1990||Touch of a Stranger||Ida|
|1991||Stepping Out||Mrs. Fraser|
|1992||Weep No More, My Lady||Vivian Morgan|
|1994||The Silence of the Hams||Mrs. Motel|
|Backfire!||The Good Lieutenant|
|Mrs. Munck||Aunt Monica|
|Raging Angels||Grandma Ruth|
|1996||The Portrait of a Lady||Mrs. Touchett|
|1999||La bomba||Prof. Summers|
|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"|
|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"|
|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"|
|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)|
|Vega$||J.D. Fenton||Episode: "Macho Murders"|
|1982||The Love Boat||Teresa Rosselli||Season 6 - Episode: 1|
|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|
|1941||The Night Before Christmas||Flora||Morosco Theatre, Broadway|||
|1942||Rosalinda||Fifi||46th Street Theatre, Broadway|
|1943||Oklahoma!||Ado Annie||St. James Theatre, Broadway|
|1955||A Hatful of Rain||Celia Pope||Plymouth Theatre, Broadway|
|1956||Girls of Summer||Hilda Brookman||Longacre Theatre, Broadway|
|1961||The Night of the Iguana||Maxine Faulk||Royale Theatre, Broadway|
|1966||Under the Weather||Marcella
|Cort Theatre, Broadway|
|1970||Minnie's Boys||Minnie Marx||Imperial Theatre, Broadway|
|1978||The Effect of Gamma Rays on
|Beatrice||Biltmore Theatre, Broadway|
Summer Stock plays
|1951||Best Actress||A Place in the Sun||Nominated|||
|1959||Best Supporting Actress||The Diary of Anne Frank||Won|
|1965||A Patch of Blue||Won|
|1972||The Poseidon Adventure||Nominated|
|1951||Best Actress - Drama Film||A Place in the Sun||Nominated|||
|1959||Best Supporting Actress||The Diary of Anne Frank||Nominated|
|1962||Best Actress - Drama Film||Lolita||Nominated|
|1966||Best Supporting Actress||Alfie||Nominated|
|1972||The Poseidon Adventure||Won|
|1976||Next Stop, Greenwich Village||Nominated|
|1964||Outstanding Lead Actress||Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre||Won|||
|1974||Supporting Actress - Comedy/Drama Series||McCloud NBC Sunday Mystery Movie||Nominated|
|1972||Best Supporting Actress||The Poseidon Adventure||Nominated|||
|1977||Next Stop, Greenwich Village||Nominated|