Shelley Winters

Shelley Winters

Winters in a studio publicity photo (1951)
Born Shirley Schrift
(1920-08-18)August 18, 1920
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 14, 2006(2006-01-14) (aged 85)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart failure
Resting place Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City
Nationality American
Alma mater The New School
Occupation Actress
Years active 1943–2006
Spouse(s) Mack Paul Mayer
(m.1942–1948; divorced)
Vittorio Gassman
(m.1952–1954; divorced; 1 child)
Anthony Franciosa
(m.1957–1960; divorced)
Gerry DeFord
(m. 2006–2006; her death)
Awards Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (1959 and 1965)

Shelley Winters (born Shirley Schrift; August 18, 1920 January 14, 2006) was an American actress who appeared in dozens of films, as well as on stage and television; her career spanned over 50 years until her death in 2006. Winters won Academy Awards for The Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue, and received nominations for A Place in the Sun (Best Actress) and The Poseidon Adventure (Best Supporting Actress). She also appeared in such films as The Big Knife, A Double Life, Lolita, The Night of the Hunter, Alfie, Next Stop, Greenwich Village, and Pete's Dragon.


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.[1] Her parents were Jewish; her father emigrated from Austria, and her mother was born in St. Louis to Austrian immigrants.[2] Her parents were third cousins.[2] Her family moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was three years old. Her sister Blanche Schrift later married George Boroff, who ran The Circle Theatre (now named El Centro Theatre) in Los Angeles. Winters studied at The New School in New York City.


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 films as a Blonde Bombshell type, but quickly tired of the role's limitations. She claims to have washed off her makeup to audition for the role of Alice Tripp, the factory girl, in A Place in the Sun, directed by George Stevens, which is 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." She studied in the Hollywood Studio Club, and in the late 1940s, she shared an apartment with another newcomer, Marilyn Monroe.[3]

Her first movie was What a Woman! (1943). Working in films (in mostly bit roles) through the 1940s, Winters first achieved stardom with her breakout performance as the victim of insane actor Ronald Colman in George Cukor's A Double Life, in 1947. She quickly ascended in Hollywood with leading roles in The Great Gatsby (1949) with Alan Ladd, and in Winchester 73 (1950), opposite James Stewart. 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.

Throughout the 1950s, Winters continued in films, including Meet Danny Wilson (1952) as Frank Sinatra's leading lady, notably in Charles Laughton's 1955 Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish, and the less successful I Am a Camera starring opposite Julie Harris and Laurence Harvey. She also returned to the stage on various occasions during this time, including a Broadway run in A Hatful of Rain, in 1955–1956, opposite future husband Anthony Franciosa. She won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank in 1960, and another, in the same category, for A Patch of Blue in 1966. She donated her Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.[4]

Notable later roles included her lauded performance as the man-hungry Charlotte Haze in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita; starring opposite Michael Caine in Alfie; and as the fading, alcoholic former starlet Fay Estabrook in Harper (both 1966). In The Poseidon Adventure (1972), she was the ill-fated Belle Rosen (for which she received her final Oscar nomination), and also appeared in Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976). She returned to the stage during the 1960s and 1970s, most notably in Tennessee Williams' Night of the Iguana. She appeared in such cult films as 1968's Wild in the Streets and 1971's Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?. She also starred in the 1970 Broadway musical Minnie's Boys as Minnie Marx, the mother of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, and Gummo Marx.

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.[5]

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.

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, as an aristocrat in The Portrait of a Lady (1996), starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich, and as an embittered nursing home administrator in 1999's Gideon.

Personal life

Winters was married four times. Her husbands were:

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.[6][7] In 1965, she addressed the Selma marchers briefly outside Montgomery on the night before they marched into the state capital.[8]

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.[9]


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 day she died and died five days later.



Uncredited in Tonight and Every Night (1945), Winters appears with Rita Hayworth
Year Film Role Notes
1943 There's Something About a Soldier Norma Uncredited
What a Woman! Secretary Uncredited
1944 Sailor's Holiday Gloria Flynn credited as Shelley Winter
Knickerbocker Holiday Ulda Tienhoven credited as Shelley Winter
Cover Girl Chorus Girl Uncredited
She's a Sailor Too 'Silver' Rankin uncredited
Dancing in Manhattan Margie Uncredited
Together Again Young Woman Fleeing Nightclub Raid Uncredited
1945 Tonight and Every Night Bubbles Uncredited
Escape in the Fog Taxi Driver Uncredited
A Thousand and One Nights Handmaiden Uncredited
1946 The Fighting Guardsman Nanette Uncredited
Two Smart People Princess Uncredited
Susie Steps Out Female Singer
Abie's Irish Rose Bridesmaid Uncredited
1947 New Orleans Ms. Holmbright Uncredited
Living in a Big Way Junior League Girl Uncredited
The Gangster Hazel - Cashier Uncredited
Killer McCoy Waitress / Autograph Hound uncredited
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 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress(2nd place)
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
He Ran All the Way Peggy Dobbs
Behave Yourself! Kate Denny
The Raging Tide Connie Thatcher
Meet Danny Wilson Joy Carroll
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Binky Gay
Untamed Frontier Jane Stevens
My Man and I Nancy
1954 Tennessee Champ Sarah Wurble
Saskatchewan Grace Markey
Executive Suite Eva Bardeman Venice Film Festival Special Prize for Ensemble Acting
Playgirl Fran Davis
Mambo Toni Salermo
To Dorothy a Son Myrtle La Mar
The Ford Television Theatre Sally Marland episode: Mantrap
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
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 the Stars Mildred Corrigan episode: Smarty
DuPont Show of the Month Louisa Burt episode: Beyond This Place
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Mrs. Petronella Van Daan Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Odds Against Tomorrow Lorry
1960 Play of the Week Rose episode: A Piece of Blue Sky
Let No Man Write My Epitaph Nellie Romano
1961 The Young Savages Mary diPace
1962 Lolita Charlotte Haze Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama
The Chapman Report Sarah Garnell
Alcoa Premiere Meg Fletcher
Millie Norman
episode: The Way From Darkness
episode: The Cake Baker
1963 The Balcony Madame Irma
Wives and Lovers Fran Cabrell
1964 A House Is Not a Home Polly Adler
Time of Indifference Lisa
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 The Greatest Story Ever Told Healed Woman
A Patch of Blue Rose-Ann D'Arcey Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress
Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance
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 Harper Fay Estabrook
Alfie Ruby Laurel Award for Top Female Supporting Performance (2nd place)
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Batman (1966) TV series Ma Parker episodes 43 and 44 Special guest villainess
The Three Sisters Natalya
1967 Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Clarry Golden episode: Wipeout
Enter Laughing Mrs. Emma Kolowitz
1968 The Scalphunters Kate
Wild in the Streets Mrs. Daphne Flatow
Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell Shirley Newman
Here's Lucy Shelley Summers episode: Lucy and Miss Shelley Winters
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
A Death of Innocence Elizabeth Cameron (TV movie)
1972 Something to Hide Gabriella
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? Mrs. Forrest
The Poseidon Adventure Belle Rosen Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
Nominated-Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Adventures of Nick Carter Bess Tucker (TV movie)
1973 The Devil's Daughter Lilith Malone (TV movie)
Blume in Love Mrs. Cramer
Cleopatra Jones Mommy
The Stone Killer Drunk Woman in Police Station Uncredited
1974 Big Rose: Double Trouble Rose Winters (TV movie)
The Sex Symbol Agathy Murphy (TV movie)
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 Poor Pretty Eddie Bertha
That Lucky Touch Diana Steedeman
Journey Into Fear Mrs. Mathews
Diamonds Zelda Shapiro
Chico and the Man Shirley Schrift episode: Ed Steps Out
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Faye Lapinsky Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture
The Tenant The Concierge
Mimì Bluette... fiore del mio giardino Caterina
La dahlia scarlatta
1977 Tentacles Tillie Turner
An Average Little Man Amalia Vivaldi David di Donatello Special Distinction Award
Pete's Dragon Lena Gogan
Black Journal Lea
1978 King of the Gypsies Queen Rachel
Kojak Evelyn McNeil episode: The Captain's Brother's Wife
The Initiation of Sarah Mrs. Erica Hunter (TV movie)
1979 The French Atlantic Affair Helen Wabash
Elvis Gladys Presley
The Visitor Jane Phillips
City on Fire Nurse Andrea Harper
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July Crystal Voice
The Magician of Lublin Elzbieta
Vega$ J.D. Fenton episode: Macho Murders
1981 S.O.B. Eva Brown
Looping Carmen
1982 The Love Boat Teresa Rosselli episode: Venetian Love Song/Down for the Count/Arrividerci, Gopher/The Arrangement
1983 Parade of Stars Sophie Tucker (TV movie)
Fanny Hill Mrs. Cole
1984 Over the Brooklyn Bridge Becky
Hotel Adele Ellsworth episode: Trials
Hawaiian Heat Florence Senkowski episode: Andy's Mom
Ellie Cora Jackson
1985 Déjà Vu Olga Nabokova
Alice in Wonderland The Dodo Bird (TV movie)
1986 The Delta Force Edie Kaplan
Witchfire Lydia
Very Close Quarters Galina
1987 The Sleeping Beauty Fairy (TV movie)
1988 Purple People Eater Rita
1989 An Unremarkable Life Evelyn McEllany
1990 Touch of a Stranger
1991 Stepping Out Mrs. Fraser
1991–1996 Roseanne Nana Mary 10 episodes
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

Source: "Shelley Winters". IMDb. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 


  • 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)

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Lux Radio Theatre Phone Call from a Stranger[10]



  1. Aljean Harmetz (January 15, 2006). "Shelley Winters, Tough-Talking Oscar Winner in 'Anne Frank' and 'Patch of Blue', Dies". New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  2. 1 2
  3. Grant, James (1995-04-09). "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.". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2016-11-12.
  4. Annefrank,org
  5. Winters, Shelley (1980). Shelley: Also known as Shirley. Morrow. ISBN 0-688-03638-4.
  7. 1960 Democratic Convention Los Angeles Committee for the Arts. YouTube. 1960.
  8. eyewitness
  9. Amburn, Ellis (October 1992). Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin : A Biography. Time Warner. ISBN 0-446-51640-6.
  10. Kirby, Walter (January 4, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 38. Retrieved June 19, 2015 via
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