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Shelley Winters

Shelley WintersAKA Shirley Schrift

Born: 18-Aug-1920
Birthplace: St. Louis, MO
Died: 14-Jan-2006
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, CA

Gender: Female
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Method actress and camp queen

Two-time Oscar-winning actress Shelley Winters borrowed her stage name from her favorite poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and her mother's maiden name, Winter. The first studio she signed with reportedly added the final "s," but it has also been said that she added the "s" herself when she heard that she was being referred to as "Chilly Winter".

She left school at 15 to work as a counter clerk and model while studying drama and entering beauty pageants, determined to make it as an actress. For her first appearance on Broadway, a 1941 play called The Night Before Christmas, she needed to join the union, Actors Equity, and had to borrow $25 from her sister for dues -- a fortune in those days. Winters has since speculated that her sister, then a student nurse, may have sold blood to come up with the cash. Winters headed west in the early 1940s, and first signed with Columbia studios, but was stuck with bit parts. She shared an apartment with Marilyn Monroe; they shared a bathing suit for cheesecake shots and a mink coat for dates. Legend has it that Winters taught Monroe how to "act pretty", by tilting her head back, lowering her eyes, and ever-so-slightly opening her mouth.

Her first film was What A Woman! in 1943, but the titular woman was Rosalind Russell. For years, Winters' roles were small, inconsequential, and rarely noticed. Frustrated with her lack of Hollywood success, Winters began acting in local theater to learn her craft. She first gained notice in 1947's The Double Life. Her classics include Winchester '73, The Night of the Hunter, the 1959 Diary of Anne Frank, the 1962 Lolita, and the 1966 Alfie.

Dead serious about acting, in the 1940s Winters studied Shakespeare with Charles Laughton, and sought to gain "a wide experience of literature, and all the plays that have been written, and the whole history of theatre." During the 1950s she worked with Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio to an almost religious degree. She never stopped studying acting until she began teaching it, and she eventually came to be considered one of the great American teachers of "The Method".

She won her first Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Diary of Anne Frank, and gave the statuette to Frank's father, Otto Frank, for the Anne Frank Museum. She won a second Oscar, and kept it, for her performance as a bigoted Southerner in 1965's A Patch of Blue.

In 1960, Winters was among the sponsors of a very controversial advertisement in The New York Times, along with Eleanor Roosevelt and Diahann Carroll, for "The Committee to Defend Martin Luther King Jr. and the Struggle for Freedom in the South". Gloria Steinem once said that Winters helped lay the groundwork for the women's movement, by portraying victims who fought back.

Winters was one of Robert De Niro's first fans. She was introduced to him by her goddaughter, actress Sally Kirkland, and she cast De Niro in one of his first noteworthy roles, as her psychopathic, drug-addled son in Bloody Mama. She is 23 years older than De Niro, but some accounts suggest she may have slept with him.

In her later years as sort of a camp queen, Winters swam in The Poseidon Adventure with an all-star cast turned upside-down, and once poured her drink over Oliver Reed's head after he made a sexist remark on Carson's Tonight Show. Among her other late-career memorable roles, she played the quintessential Jewish mother in Next Stop, Greenwich Village, Elvis's mom in the Kurt Russell TV movie Elvis, and Roseanne Barr's grandmother on that long-running 1990s sitcom.

She has written two autobiographies, which told some readers much more than they needed to know about Winters' love life. Her long list of conquests purportedly includes Robert Blake, Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, John Garfield, Sterling Hayden, William Holden, Howard Hughes, Joseph P. Kennedy, Burt Lancaster, Anthony Quinn, and Lawrence Tierney, among others. Bette Davis is said to have once asked, "Who the hell hasn't Shelley Winters slept with?"

Father: Jonas Schrift (tailor's assistant)
Mother: Rose Winter Schrift (silent film accompanist at theaters)
Sister: Blanche Schrift
Husband: (m. 1-Jan-1942, div.)
Husband: Vittorio Gassman (Italian actor, m. 28-Apr-1952, div. 1954, one daughter)
Daughter: Vittoria Gassman
Husband: Tony Franciosa (actor, m. 1957, div. 1960)

    High School: (Brooklyn, NY, dropped out)

    Oscar for Best Supporting Actress 1960 for The Diary of Anne Frank
    Oscar for Best Supporting Actress 1966 for A Patch of Blue
    Golden Globe 1973 for The Poseidon Adventure
    Emmy 1964 for Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre "Two Is The Number"
    Hollywood Walk of Fame 1750 Vine St.
    St. Louis Walk of Fame
    Stomach Pumped Moscow, Russia (17-Jul-1963)
    Hazelden
    Betty Ford Center
    unknown detox facility St. John's Medical Center, Santa Monica, CA
    Heart Attack 14-Oct-2005
    Hip Replacement Surgery
    Risk Factors: Obesity

    FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
    A-List (27-Apr-2006) · Herself
    Gideon (10-Oct-1999) · Mrs. Willows
    The Portrait of a Lady (18-Oct-1996)
    Jury Duty (12-Apr-1995)
    Heavy (20-Jan-1995)
    Backfire! (20-Jan-1995)
    The Silence of the Hams (13-Jul-1994)
    The Pickle (30-Apr-1993)
    Stepping Out (30-Sep-1991)
    Superstar: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol (18-Jul-1990) · Herself
    An Unremarkable Life (12-Oct-1989)
    Purple People Eater (Dec-1988)
    The Delta Force (14-Feb-1986)
    Alice in Wonderland (9-Dec-1985)
    Déjà Vu (May-1985)
    Over the Brooklyn Bridge (2-Mar-1984)
    Ellie (1984)
    Fanny Hill (1983)
    S. O. B. (1-Jul-1981)
    The Magician of Lublin (12-Sep-1979)
    Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1-Jul-1979) [VOICE]
    City on Fire (24-May-1979)
    The Visitor (22-Mar-1979)
    Elvis (11-Feb-1979)
    King of the Gypsies (20-Dec-1978)
    The Initiation of Sarah (6-Feb-1978) · Mrs. Erica Hunter
    Pete's Dragon (3-Nov-1977)
    Tentacles (17-Mar-1977)
    A Very Little Man (17-Mar-1977)
    Le Locataire (26-May-1976)
    Next Stop, Greenwich Village (4-Feb-1976)
    Diamonds (22-Oct-1975)
    Journey Into Fear (8-Aug-1975)
    That Lucky Touch (7-Aug-1975)
    The Sex Symbol (17-Sep-1974)
    Cleopatra Jones (Jul-1973) · Mommy
    Blume in Love (17-Jun-1973)
    The Poseidon Adventure (12-Dec-1972) · Belle Rosen
    Who Slew Aunti Roo? (15-Mar-1972)
    Something to Hide (1972)
    What's the Matter with Helen? (30-Jun-1971) · Helen
    Flap (Nov-1970)
    How Do I Love Thee? (Oct-1970)
    Bloody Mama (24-Mar-1970) · "Ma" Kate Barker
    The Mad Room (1-May-1969)
    Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell (Dec-1968)
    Wild in the Streets (29-May-1968) · Mrs. Max Flatow
    The Scalphunters (2-Apr-1968) · Kate
    Enter Laughing (25-Feb-1967)
    Alfie (29-Mar-1966) · Ruby
    Harper (23-Feb-1966) · Fay Estabrook
    The Three Sisters (1966)
    A Patch of Blue (10-Dec-1965) · Rose-Ann D'Arcey
    The Greatest Story Ever Told (15-Feb-1965) · Woman of No Name
    A House Is Not a Home (1-Sep-1964)
    Time of Indifference (1964)
    Wives and Lovers (28-Aug-1963) · Fran Cabrell
    The Balcony (21-Mar-1963) · Madame Irma
    The Chapman Report (5-Oct-1962) · Sarah Garnell
    Lolita (13-Jun-1962) · Charlotte Haze
    The Young Savages (24-May-1961) · Mary diPace
    Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960)
    Odds Against Tomorrow (15-Oct-1959) · Lorry
    The Diary of Anne Frank (18-Mar-1959) · Mrs. Petronella Van Daan
    I Died a Thousand Times (9-Nov-1955) · Marie Garson
    The Big Knife (8-Nov-1955) · Dixie Evans
    The Treasure of Pancho Villa (19-Oct-1955) · Ruth Harris
    I Am a Camera (8-Aug-1955)
    The Night of the Hunter (19-Feb-1955) · Willa Harper
    Cash on Delivery (Nov-1954)
    Mambo (8-Sep-1954)
    Executive Suite (6-May-1954) · Eva Bardeman
    Playgirl (21-Apr-1954)
    Saskatchewan (30-Mar-1954)
    Tennessee Champ (25-Feb-1954)
    My Man and I (5-Sep-1952) · Nancy
    Untamed Frontier (23-Jul-1952) · Jane Stevens
    Phone Call from a Stranger (1-Feb-1952)
    Meet Danny Wilson (Dec-1951)
    Behave Yourself! (Sep-1951) · Kate
    A Place in the Sun (28-Aug-1951) · Alice Tripp
    He Ran All the Way (19-Jun-1951) · Peg Dobbs
    Frenchie (25-Dec-1950) · Frenchie Fontaine
    South Sea Sinner (30-Aug-1950)
    Winchester '73 (12-Jul-1950) · Lola Manners
    Johnny Stool Pigeon (22-Sep-1949)
    The Great Gatsby (13-Jul-1949)
    Take One False Step (22-Jun-1949) · Catherine Sykes
    Cry of the City (29-Sep-1948)
    Larceny (3-Sep-1948)
    A Double Life (25-Dec-1947)
    Knickerbocker Holiday (17-Mar-1944)

Author of books:
Shelley: Also Known as Shirley (1980)
Shelley II: The Middle of My Century (1989, memoir)


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