Shelley Winters died on January 14, 2006 at the age of 85, he 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.
Born Shirley Schrift in St. Louis, Missouri on August 18, 1920, the daughter of Rose (née Winter), a singer with The Muny, and Jonas Schrift, a designer of men’s clothing.
Her parents were Jewish; her father emigrated from Austria, and her mother was born in St. Louis to Austrian immigrants. 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.”
She studied in the Hollywood Studio Club, and in the late 1940s, she shared an apartment with another newcomer, Marilyn Monroe.
Determined to succeed, Winters finally got her chance to work with Cukor on the critically acclaimed drama A Double Life (1947).
She gave a great performance as a waitress who meets an untimely end at the hands of a character actor (played by Ronald Colman).
This role helped Winters land a new contract with Universal Pictures.
“To this day I feel that getting A Double Life was a miracle.
So much of a successful career depends on standing on the right corner at the exact right moment,” Winters later wrote.
The new studio is also said to have added an “s” to the actress’ stage name, and henceforth she was known as “Winters.” More films soon followed, including 1949’s The Great Gatsby with Alan Ladd and 1950’s Winchester ’73 with Jimmy Stewart.
She usually played loose women who often were handed a gruesome fate.
Throughout the 1950s, Winters continued in films, including Meet Danny Wilson (1952) as Frank Sinatra’s leading lady, most 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 for Best Supporting Actress for The Diary of Anne Frank in 1960, and another award, 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.
Married three times, Winters’ union with Paul Meyer lasted from 1943 to 1946.
In 1952, she married Italian actor Vittorio Gassman.
The couple had one child together, daughter Vittoria, before divorcing in 1954.
Winters married actor Anthony Franciosa, her co-star from A Hatful of Rain, in 1957.
The pair divorced three years later.