Happy 101st Birthday Shelley Winters

Today is the 101st birthday of the actor Shelley Winters. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

shelley winters 01

NAME: Shelley Winters
DATE OF BIRTH: 18-Aug-1920
DATE OF DEATH: 14-Jan-2006
PLACE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, CA
CAUSE OF DEATH: Heart Failure
REMAINS: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, CA
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”

BEST KNOWN FOR: DescriptionShelley Winters was an American actress whose career spanned almost six decades. She appeared in numerous films, and won Academy Awards for The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue, and received nominations for A Place in the Sun and The Poseidon Adventure.

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?”


Year Film Role Notes
1943 There’s Something About a Soldier Norma Uncredited
What a Woman! Secretary
1944 Sailor’s Holiday Gloria Flynn Credited as Shelley Winter
Knickerbocker Holiday Ulda Tienhoven
Cover Girl Chorus Girl Uncredited
She’s a Soldier Too ‘Silver’ Rankin
Dancing in Manhattan Margie
Together Again Young Woman Fleeing Nightclub Raid
1945 Tonight and Every Night Bubbles
Escape in the Fog Taxi Driver
A Thousand and One Nights Handmaiden
1946 The Fighting Guardsman Nanette
Two Smart People Princess
Susie Steps Out Female Singer  
Abie’s Irish Rose Bridesmaid Uncredited
1947 New Orleans Ms. Holmbright
Living in a Big Way Junior League Girl
The Gangster Hazel – Cashier
Killer McCoy Waitress / Autograph Hound
A Double Life Pat Kroll  
1948 Red River Dance Hall Girl in Wagon Train Uncredited
Larceny Tony  
Cry of the City Brenda Martingale  
1949 Take One False Step Catherine Sykes  
The Great Gatsby Myrtle Wilson  
Johnny Stool Pigeon Terry Stewart  
1950 Winchester ’73 Lola Manners  
South Sea Sinner Coral  
Frenchie Frenchie Fontaine  
1951 A Place in the Sun Alice Tripp  
He Ran All the Way Peggy Dobbs  
Behave Yourself! Kate Denny  
The Raging Tide Connie Thatcher  
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Binky Gay  
Meet Danny Wilson Joy Carroll  
Untamed Frontier Jane Stevens  
My Man and I Nancy  
1954 Tennessee Champ Sarah Wurble  
Saskatchewan Grace Markey  
Executive Suite Eva Bardeman  
Playgirl Fran Davis  
Mambo Toni Salermo  
To Dorothy a Son Myrtle La Mar  
1955 I Am a Camera Natalia Landauer  
The Night of the Hunter Willa Harper  
The Big Knife Dixie Evans Credited as Miss Shelley Winters
The Treasure of Pancho Villa Ruth Harris  
I Died a Thousand Times Marie Garson  
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Mrs. Petronella Van Daan Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Odds Against Tomorrow Lorry  
1960 Let No Man Write My Epitaph Nellie Romano  
1961 The Young Savages Mary diPace  
1962 Lolita Charlotte Haze  
The Chapman Report Sarah Garnell  
1963 The Balcony Madame Irma  
Wives and Lovers Fran Cabrell  
1964 A House Is Not a Home Polly Adler  
Time of Indifference Lisa  
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Healed Woman  
A Patch of Blue Rose-Ann D’Arcey Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1966 Harper Fay Estabrook  
Alfie Ruby  
The Three Sisters Natalya  
1967 Enter Laughing Mrs. Emma Kolowitz  
1968 The Scalphunters Kate  
Wild in the Streets Mrs. Daphne Flatow  
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell Shirley Newman  
1969 The Mad Room Mrs. Armstrong  
Arthur? Arthur! Hester Green  
1970 Bloody Mama “Ma” Kate Barker  
How Do I Love Thee? Lena Marvin  
Flap Dorothy Bluebell  
1971 What’s the Matter with Helen? Helen  
Revenge! Amanda Hilton  
1972 Something to Hide Gabriella  
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? Mrs. Forrest  
The Poseidon Adventure Belle Rosen  
1973 Blume in Love Mrs. Cramer  
Cleopatra Jones Mommy  
The Stone Killer Drunk Woman in Police Station Cameo; uncredited
1975 Poor Pretty Eddie Bertha  
That Lucky Touch Diana Steedeman  
Journey Into Fear Mrs. Mathews  
Diamonds Zelda Shapiro  
1976 La dahlia scarlatta Catrina  
The Tenant The Concierge  
Next Stop, Greenwich Village Faye Lapinsky  
Mimì Bluette… fiore del mio giardino Caterina  
1977 Tentacles Tillie Turner  
An Average Little Man Amalia Vivaldi  
Pete’s Dragon Lena Gogan  
Black Journal Lea  
1978 King of the Gypsies Queen Rachel  
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Helen Wabash  
The Visitor Jane Phillips  
City on Fire Nurse Andrea Harper  
The Magician of Lublin Elzbieta  
1981 S.O.B. Eva Brown  
Looping Carmen  
1983 Fanny Hill Mrs. Cole  
1984 Over the Brooklyn Bridge Becky  
Ellie Cora Jackson  
1985 Déjà Vu Olga Nabokova  
1986 The Delta Force Edie Kaplan  
Witchfire Lydia  
Very Close Quarters Galina  
1988 Purple People Eater Rita  
1989 An Unremarkable Life Evelyn McEllany  
1990 Touch of a Stranger Ida  
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  
Backfire! The Good Lieutenant  
Jury Duty Mom  
Mrs. Munck Aunt Monica  
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”
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
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”
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”
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”
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)
Elvis Gladys Presley
Vega$ J.D. Fenton Episode: “Macho Murders”
1982 The Love Boat Teresa Rosselli Season 6 – Episode: 1
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


Year Title Role Venue Ref.
1941 The Night Before Christmas Flora Morosco Theatre, Broadway [39]
1942 Rosalinda Fifi 46th Street Theatre, Broadway
1943 Oklahoma! Ado Annie St. James Theatre, Broadway
1955 A Hatful of Rain Celia Pope Plymouth Theatre, Broadway
1956 Girls of Summer Hilda Brookman Longacre Theatre, Broadway
1961 The Night of the Iguana Maxine Faulk Royale Theatre, Broadway
1966 Under the Weather Marcella
Cort Theatre, Broadway
1970 Minnie’s Boys Minnie Marx Imperial Theatre, Broadway
1978 The Effect of Gamma Rays on
Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
Beatrice Biltmore Theatre, Broadway

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)


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


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