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August 18: Shelley Winters

August 18, 2013

13021175_118746939247Actress Shelley Winters (Shirley Schrift), who won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959) and again for her role in A Patch of Blue (1965), was born in St. Louis on this date in 1920. For more than half a century, Winters played the hard-bitten, frustrated, man-hungry, much-abused, hysterical, or otherwise out-of-control woman in dozens of films, including Night of the Hunter (1955), Lolita (1962), Alfie (1966), Wild in the Streets (1968), and Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976). In demand as a “character” actress (usually as a “blonde bombshell”) early in her career, she pursued her craft doggedly, most notably at the Actors’ Studio, and became a leading lady opposite some of the film industry’s best-known male leads. When director George Stevens rejected her for a role (in A Place in the Sun, with Elizabeth Taylor) because she was “too sexy,” Winters later recalled, “I scrubbed off all my makeup, pulled my hair back and sat next to him at the Hollywood Athletic Club without his even recognizing me because I looked so plain. That got me the part” (for which she won her first Oscar nomination in 1951). Winters had four marriages and numerous other romances with Hollywood men, which she recounted in two memoirs. She lived to be 83. For a visual montage of her scenes, look below (The song, “Shelley Winters”, was written and performed by Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos).

“I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.” —Shelley Winters