Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Shelley Winters (born Shirley Schrift; August 18, 1920 – January 14, 2006) was an American actress whose career spanned five decades.

Shelley Winters
Studio publicity Shelley Winters.jpg
Winters in a studio publicity photo c. 1951
Born Shirley Schrift
(1920-08-18)August 18, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 14, 2006(2006-01-14) (aged 85)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater The New School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1943–2006
Political party Democratic
Children 1

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.


Early lifeEdit

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.[1] Her parents were Jewish; her father emigrated from Austria, and her mother was born in St. Louis to Austrian immigrants.[2] Her parents were third cousins.[2]

Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York, when she was 9 years old,[3] and she grew up partly in Queens, New York, as well.[4] As a young woman, she worked as a model.[5] 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,[3] and later returned to New York to study acting at the New School.[6]


Early work; breakthroughEdit

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 makeup to audition for the role of Alice Tripp, the factory girl, in A Place in the Sun, directed by George Stevens, which is 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.[7]

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.[8]

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.

Later careerEdit

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.[9]

Winters made an appearance at the 1998 Academy Awards telecast, which featured a tribute to Oscar winners past and present including Gregory Peck, Claire Trevor, Jennifer Jones, and Luise Rainer.

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.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Winters in publicity photo, circa 1950

Winters was married four times. Her husbands were:

  • Captain Mack Paul Mayer, whom she married on December 29, 1942 in Brooklyn;[11] 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;[12] 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.[13][14] In 1965, she addressed the Selma marchers briefly outside Montgomery on the night before they marched into the state capitol.[15]

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.[16]


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.[1] 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.


Uncredited in Tonight and Every Night (1945), Winters is behind Rita Hayworth.


Year Film Role Notes
1943 There's Something About a Soldier Norma Uncredited
1943 What a Woman! Secretary Uncredited
1944 Sailor's Holiday Gloria Flynn Credited as Shelley Winter
1944 Knickerbocker Holiday Ulda Tienhoven Credited as Shelley Winter
1944 Cover Girl Chorus Girl Uncredited
1944 She's a Sailor Too 'Silver' Rankin Uncredited
1944 Dancing in Manhattan Margie Uncredited
1944 Together Again Young Woman Fleeing Nightclub Raid Uncredited
1945 Tonight and Every Night Bubbles Uncredited
1945 Escape in the Fog Taxi Driver Uncredited
1945 A Thousand and One Nights Handmaiden Uncredited
1946 The Fighting Guardsman Nanette Uncredited
1946 Two Smart People Princess Uncredited
1946 Susie Steps Out Female Singer
1946 Abie's Irish Rose Bridesmaid Uncredited
1947 New Orleans Ms. Holmbright Uncredited
1947 Living in a Big Way Junior League Girl Uncredited
1947 The Gangster Hazel - Cashier Uncredited
1947 Killer McCoy Waitress / Autograph Hound Uncredited
1947 A Double Life Pat Kroll
1948 Red River Dance Hall Girl in Wagon Train Uncredited
1948 Larceny Tony
1948 Cry of the City Brenda Martingale
1949 Take One False Step Catherine Sykes
1949 The Great Gatsby Myrtle Wilson
1949 Johnny Stool Pigeon Terry Stewart
1950 Winchester '73 Lola Manners
1950 South Sea Sinner Coral
1950 Frenchie Frenchie Fontaine
1951 A Place in the Sun Alice Tripp New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress (2nd place)
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1951 He Ran All the Way Peggy Dobbs
1951 Behave Yourself! Kate Denny
1951 The Raging Tide Connie Thatcher
1951 Meet Danny Wilson Joy Carroll
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Binky Gay
1952 Untamed Frontier Jane Stevens
1952 My Man and I Nancy
1954 Tennessee Champ Sarah Wurble
1954 Saskatchewan Grace Markey
1954 Executive Suite Eva Bardeman Venice Film Festival Special Prize for Ensemble Acting
1954 Playgirl Fran Davis
1954 Mambo Toni Salermo
1954 To Dorothy a Son Myrtle La Mar
1955 I Am a Camera Natalia Landauer
1955 The Night of the Hunter Willa Harper
1955 The Big Knife Dixie Evans Credited as Miss Shelley Winters
1955 The Treasure of Pancho Villa Ruth Harris
1955 I Died a Thousand Times Marie Garson
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Mrs. Petronella Van Daan Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1959 Odds Against Tomorrow Lorry
1960 Let No Man Write My Epitaph Nellie Romano
1961 The Young Savages Mary diPace
1962 Lolita Charlotte Haze Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
1962 The Chapman Report Sarah Garnell
1963 The Balcony Madame Irma
1963 Wives and Lovers Fran Cabrell
1964 A House Is Not a Home Polly Adler
1964 Time of Indifference Lisa
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Healed Woman
1965 A Patch of Blue Rose-Ann D'Arcey Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
1966 Harper Fay Estabrook
1966 Alfie Ruby Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1966 The Three Sisters Natalya
1967 Enter Laughing Mrs. Emma Kolowitz
1968 The Scalphunters Kate
1968 Wild in the Streets Mrs. Daphne Flatow
1968 Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell Shirley Newman
1969 The Mad Room Mrs. Armstrong
1969 Arthur? Arthur! Hester Green
1970 Bloody Mama 'Ma' Kate Barker
1970 How Do I Love Thee? Lena Marvin
1970 Flap Dorothy Bluebell
1971 What's the Matter with Helen? Helen
1971 Revenge Amanda Hilton
1971 A Death of Innocence Elizabeth Cameron Television film
1972 Something to Hide Gabriella
1972 Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? Mrs. Forrest
1972 The Poseidon Adventure Belle Rosen Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1972 Adventures of Nick Carter Bess Tucker Television film
1973 The Devil's Daughter Lilith Malone Television film
1973 Blume in Love Mrs. Cramer
1973 Cleopatra Jones Mommy
1973 The Stone Killer Drunk Woman in Police Station Uncredited
1974 Big Rose: Double Trouble Rose Winters Television film
1974 The Sex Symbol Agathy Murphy Television film
1975 Poor Pretty Eddie Bertha
1975 That Lucky Touch Diana Steedeman
1975 Journey Into Fear Mrs. Mathews
1975 Diamonds Zelda Shapiro
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Faye Lapinsky Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
1976 The Tenant The Concierge
1976 Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino Caterina
1976 La dahlia scarlatta
1976 Frosty's Winter Wonderland Crystal (voice) Television film
1977 Tentacles Tillie Turner
1977 An Average Little Man Amalia Vivaldi David di Donatello Special Distinction Award
1977 Pete's Dragon Lena Gogan
1977 Black Journal Lea
1978 King of the Gypsies Queen Rachel
1978 The Initiation of Sarah Mrs. Erica Hunter Television film
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Helen Wabash
1979 Elvis Gladys Presley Television film
1979 The Visitor Jane Phillips
1979 City on Fire Nurse Andrea Harper
1979 Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July Crystal (voice) Television film
1979 The Magician of Lublin Elzbieta
1981 S.O.B. Eva Brown
1981 Looping Carmen
1983 Parade of Stars Sophie Tucker Television film
1983 Fanny Hill Mrs. Cole
1984 Over the Brooklyn Bridge Becky
1984 Ellie Cora Jackson
1985 Déjà Vu Olga Nabokova
1985 Alice in Wonderland The Dodo Bird Television film
1986 The Delta Force Edie Kaplan
1986 Witchfire Lydia
1986 Very Close Quarters Galina
1987 The Sleeping Beauty Fairy Television film
1988 Purple People Eater Rita
1989 An Unremarkable Life Evelyn McEllany
1990 Touch of a Stranger
1991 Stepping Out Mrs. Fraser
1992 Weep No More, My Lady Vivian Morgan
1993 The Pickle Yetta
1994 The Silence of the Hams Mrs. Motel
1995 Heavy Dolly Modino
1995 Backfire! The Good Lieutenant
1995 Jury Duty Mom
1995 Mrs. Munck Aunt Monica
1995 Raging Angels Grandma Ruth
1996 The Portrait of a Lady Mrs. Touchett
1998 Gideon Mrs. Willows
1999 La bomba Prof. Summers
2006 A-List Herself


Year Title Role Notes
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"
1957 The United States Steel Hour Evvie Episode: "Inspired Alibi"
1957 Wagon Train Ruth Owens Episode: "The Ruth Owens Story"
1957 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Mildred Corrigan Episode: "Smarty"
1957 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
Millie Norman
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"
1965 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"
1974 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"
1978 Kojak Evelyn McNeil Episode: "The Captain's Brother's Wife"
1979 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"
1984 Hotel Adele Ellsworth Episode: "Trials"
1984 Hawaiian Heat Florence Senkowski Episode: "Andy's Mom"
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)

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Lux Radio Theatre Phone Call from a Stranger[17]


  • 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)


  1. ^ a b 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. 
  2. ^ a b "Shelley Winters". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved May 9, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Winters, Shelley (1988). "Shelley Winters". Skip E. Lowe Looks at Hollywood (Interview). Interviewed by Skip E. Lowe. 
  4. ^ 1930 United States Federal Census
  5. ^ 1940 United States Federal Census
  6. ^ Collins, Glenn (April 7, 1994). "Actors Studio to Teach Program at New School". The New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2017. 
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Annefrank,org
  9. ^ Winters, Shelley (1980). Shelley: Also known as Shirley. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03638-4. 
  10. ^ "Overview for Shelley Winters". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 9, 2017. 
  11. ^ New York City, Marriage Indexes, 1907-1995
  12. ^ Washington Post Marriages, 1952
  13. ^
  14. ^ 1960 Democratic Convention Los Angeles Committee for the Arts. YouTube. 1960. 
  15. ^ Adler, Renata (April 10, 1965). "Letter from Selma". The New Yorker. Retrieved May 9, 2017. 
  16. ^ Amburn, Ellis (October 1992). Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin : A Biography. Time Warner. ISBN 0-446-51640-6. 
  17. ^ Kirby, Walter (January 4, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 19, 2015 – via   

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit