SHELLEY WINTERS Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Shelley Winters                                                               
Birth name: Shirley Schrift                                                         
Born: 18 August 1920 St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.                                     
Died: 14 January 2006 Beverly Hills, California, U.S.                               
Shelley Winters (August 18, 1920 - January 14, 2006) was a American actress who     
won Academy Awards for her supporting roles in The Diary of Anne Frank and A       
Patch of Blue, and a Golden Globe Award for her role in The Poseidon Adventure.     
She appeared in dozens of films as well as on stage and television.                 
Winters was born Shirley Schrift in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Jewish     
parents Jonas Schrift, a designer of men's clothing, and Rose (Winters), a         
singer. Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was three years             
old. She studied in the Hollywood Studio Club, sharing the same bedroom with       
another beginner, Marilyn Monroe.                                                   
As the New York Times obituary noted, "A major movie presence for more than five   
decades, Shelley Winters turned herself into a widely respected actress who won     
two Oscars." Winters originally broke into Hollywood as "the Blonde Bombshell,"     
but quickly tired of the role's limitations. She washed off her makeup and         
played against type to set up Elizabeth Taylor's beauty in A Place in the Sun,     
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."                                                       
Her first movie was There's Something About a Soldier (1943). As typical for the   
time period, she appeared in a black-and-white film noir role for the 1948 film     
Cry of the City, wearing fashionable clothes (see image at top) contrasting to     
the impending doom of the film. In 1959, she won an Oscar for Best Supporting       
Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank and another for A Patch of Blue (1965).         
Notable later roles included her turn as the once gorgeous, alcoholic former       
starlet "Fay Estabrook" in Harper (1966) and in The Poseidon Adventure (1972) as   
the ill-fated "Mrs. Belle Rosen", for which she received her final Oscar           
nomination. Viewers may notice Winters frequently pushing her hair away from her   
face while swimming. She later explained that this was to show that she did her     
own swimming without the use of a double. (She later reunited with her Poseidon     
co-star, Jack Albertson in a number of episodes of Albertson's sitcom Chico and     
the Man during the mid-1970s.) Always conscious of her Jewish heritage she had     
first learned her trade in the Borscht Belt she donated her Oscar for Anne Frank   
to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.                                               
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 an overwhelming beauty, her     
acting, wit, and "chutzpah" gave her a love life to rival Monroe's. In late life,   
she recalled her conquests in autobiographies so popular they undermined her       
reputation as a serious actor. She wrote of a yearly rendezvous she kept with       
William Holden, as well as her affairs with Burt Lancaster and Marlon Brando.       
Winters suffered an enormous weight gain later in life, frequently stating that     
it was a marketing tool, since there were plenty of prominent normal-weight         
older actresses but fewer overweight ones, and her obesity would enable her to     
find work more easily. In 1973 Winters even put on a short-lived Broadway           
musical review entitled "The Hoofing Hollywood Heifer", co-starring Charles         
Nelson Reilly and Bongo, a tap-dancing chimp. Although it closed after only         
eight performances, this show was applauded for its sheer campy bravado by many     
critics, one of whom stated that Winters was a "Whale of a Talent looking for a     
sea of applause big enough to rest her massive girth."                             
Audiences born in the 1980s knew her primarily for the autobiographies and for     
her television work, in which she played a humorous parody of her public persona.   
In a recurring role in the early 1990s, Winters played the title character's       
grandmother on the ABC sitcom Roseanne.