Shelley Winters (born Shirley Schrift; August 18, 1920 – January 14, 2006) was an American actress whose career spanned almost six decades.
Winters in a studio publicity photo c. 1951
August 18, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||January 14, 2006 (aged 85)|
|Resting place||Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, California, U.S.|
|Alma mater||The New School|
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.
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", 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).
Breakthrough - A Double Life and UniversalEdit
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 who signed Winters to a long term contract.
A Place in the SunEdit
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 Montalban. She performed in A Streetcar Named Desire on stage in Los Angeles.
Winters took off some time for the birth of her first child. 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.
Return to BroadwayEdit
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.
Diary of Ann Frank and LolitaEdit
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.
A Patch of BlueEdit
Winters won another Best Supporting Actress Oscar in A Patch of Blue (1965). She had good support parts starring 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).
Final Starring RolesEdit
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 production of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1978) which only had a short run.
Winters could still command top billing on occasion, as in 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$. She published her memoirs 
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.
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:
- 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 same day she died, and passed away 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)
- 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.
- Obituary of Shelley Winters Versatile actress whose career spanned half a century and took her from good-time girls to Jewish mothers The Daily Telegraph16 Jan 2006: 021.
- Two-time Oscar winner first won fame as sexpot: [Third Edition] Thomas, Bob; THE ASSOCIATED PRESS15 Jan 2006: A.2.
- HEDDA HOPPER. (1949, Jul 26). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/165977394?accountid=13902
- Scheuer, P. K. (1949, Nov 13). SHELLEY WINTERS MAY DO JEAN HARLOW'S LIFE. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.sl.nsw.gov.au/docview/166060791?accountid=13902
- 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.
- Outspoken actress Shelley Winters dies Aljean Harmetz New York Times News Service.15 Jan 2006: A02.
- SHELLEY WINTERS' ROLE CREATES STIR Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 11 Aug 1952: B6.
- FILMING SPEEDED AT MAJOR STUDIOS: 44 Features Will Se Made in Hollywood This Month, a Big Rise Over Spring By THOMAS M. PRYOR Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES 8 Aug 1953: 14.
- SHELLEY: THE NOT-SO-DUMB BLONDE Richards, Dick. Answers; London Vol. 126, Iss. 3256, (Sep 25, 1954): 2.
- SHELLEY WINTERS ; Blonde sexpot who won two Oscars: [First Edition] Vosburgh, Dick. The Independent 16 Jan 2006: 37.
- Shelley Winters: Still running her own three-ring circus Tempo Shelley Winters runs own three-ring circus Clifford, Terry. Chicago Tribune 2 Apr 1985: d1.
- Shelley Winters? By MAURICE ZOLOTOW. The Washington Post and Times Herald 12 Feb 1956: AW6.
- News of the Rialto: Shelley Winters, Author Shelley Winters, Author Shelley Winters, Playwright By LEWIS FUNKE. New York Times 11 Oct 1970: 107.
- Shelley Winters Guest on Chico Los Angeles Times 6 Dec 1974: h32.
- Busy Summer for Shelley Winters Los Angeles Times 28 Aug 1979: f6.
- STYLE MARIAN CHRISTY; ; THIS WINTERS IS A STORMY ONE; PUSHING 60, SHELLEY IS ASCINTILLATING MATRON WHOSE ADRENALIN IS FANTASY: [FIRST Edition] Christy, Marian. Boston Globe 29 June 1980: 1.
- THEATER: Shelley: Also known as the durable star Kart, Larry. Chicago Tribune 19 July 1981: c5.
- SHELLEY WINTERS BATTLES HER EMOTIONS: [THIRD Edition] Christy, Marian. Boston Globe 3 Sep 1989: 91
- Shelley Winters speaks and speaks Boulware, Hugh. Chicago Tribune 30 Oct 1989: C1.
- "Overview for Shelley Winters". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
- Winters, Shelley (1980). Shelley: Also known as Shirley. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03638-4.
- 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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