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Former Student of Thomas Jefferson High School (maybe!)
Winters had bit parts in MGM's Two Smart People (1946), and a series of films for United Artists: Susie Steps Out (1946), Abie's Irish Rose (1946) and New Orleans (1947). She had bit parts in Living in a Big Way (1947) and Killer McCoy (1947) at MGM, The Gangster (1947) for King Brothers Productions and Red River (1948).
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. She had a supporting role in Larceny (1948) then 20th Century Fox borrowed her for Cry of the City (1948). Winters was second-billed in Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) with Howard Duff, and Take One False Step (1949) with William Powell. Paramount borrowed her to play Mabel in The Great Gatsby (1949) with Alan Ladd. Back at Universal she was in Winchester 73 (1950), opposite James Stewart, a huge hit. With James Stewart in Winchester 73 (1950) Universal gave Winters top billing in South Sea Sinner (1950). She co starred with Joel McCrea in Frenchie (1950). 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. Winters went to United Artists for He Ran All the Way (1951) with John Garfield and RKO for Behave Yourself! (1951) with Farley Granger. Winters was top billed in The Raging Tide (1951) at Universal. She was loaned to 20th Century Fox for Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), with Bette Davis. 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. 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 travelled to Europe to make Mambo (1954) with Vittorio Gassman who became her husband. She then shot Cash on Delivery (1954) in England. 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.
Here are three photographs of Shelley Winters in
the 1955 stage production of "A Hatful of Rain" (courtesy of the New
York Public Library). The middle photograph includes Anthony Franciosa,
whom Shelley would later marry (and divorce three years later).
Winters returned to Broadway in A Hatful of Rain, in 1955–1956, opposite Ben Gazzara and future husband Anthony Franciosa. It ran for 398 performances. Girls of Summer (1956–57) was directed by Jack Garfein and co-starred George Peppard but only ran for 56 performances. 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 Anne Frank and Lolita 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).
Winters returned to Broadway on The Night of the Iguana (1962), playing Bette Davis's role. She performed Off Broadway in Cages by Lewis John Carlino in 1963.
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).
Winters played Ma Barker in Bloody Mama (1970) a big hit for Roger Corman. She had roles in How Do I Love Thee? (1970) and Flap (1970) for Carol Reed.
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 eighty 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 had the lead in two horror films, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), and What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), and two TV movies, Revenge! (1971), and A Death of Innocence (1971).
She was in support in Adventures of Nick Carter (1972) and had a co lead in Something to Hide (1972) with Peter Finch. She starred in The Vamp for ITV Sunday Night Theatre.
In The Poseidon Adventure (1972), she was the ill-fated Belle Rosen (for which she received her final Oscar nomination). She put on weight for the role and never got rid of it.
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).
SHELLEY WINTERS 'FULL DISCLOSURE' (2001)
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.
1980s 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.
She was in Very Close Quarters (1986), Purple People Eater (1988), and An Unremarkable Life (1989).
1990s Her final performances included Touch of a Stranger (1990), Stepping Out (1991) with Liza Minnelli, Weep No More, My Lady (1992), The Pickle (1993) for Mazursky, and The Silence of the Hams (1994).
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).
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.
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 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 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; 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 13, 2006.
Hours before her death, Winters married long-time companion Gerry DeFord, with whom she had lived for nineteen 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 eighty-five 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.
Shelley Winters --Rare 1989 TV Interview with Skip E. Lowe
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