January 14, 2006

US actress Shelley Winters dies at 85

By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actress Shelley Winters, the
two-time Oscar winner whose roles ranged from glamour girls to
tramps, died at a Southern California nursing home early on
Saturday, a spokeswoman said. She was 85.

Winters died at the Rehabilitation Center of Beverly Hills
about 6:15 a.m., a spokeswoman there told Reuters. She declined
to disclose the cause of death.

Winters was hospitalized in October after suffering a heart

A blond bombshell who was tough, street-wise and outspoken,
the Brooklyn, New York-raised Winters specialized in
unsympathetic, abrasive mother roles that won her two Academy
Awards for best supporting actress.

In 1959, she won an Oscar for her portrayal of the slobbish
Mrs. Van Daan hiding with others from the Nazis in "The Diary
of Anne Frank." After a variety of other movies, she won again,
playing the violent mother of a blind girl in "A Patch of Blue"

She was also nominated for Oscars for "A Place in the Sun"
(1951) and "The Poseidon Adventure" (1972), in which she played
a heroine and insisted on doing her own stunt work.

Born Shirley Shrift on August 18, 1920, in East St. Louis,
Illinois, Winters moved as a child with her family to Brooklyn,
where her father worked as a tailor's helper. Money was so
scarce she was out on the street selling magazines at age 9.
She later worked as a Manhattan garment district model and
salesgirl before first fulfilling her acting dream in an
amateur revue.

Small professional parts on Broadway followed. Spotted by
Columbia Pictures mogul Harry Cohn, she spent five years
playing small, sexy roles in such films as "What a Woman!"
(1943) and "Tonight and Every Night" (1945).

She insistently lobbied director George Cukor for the role
of Ronald Colman's mistress in the hit "A Double Life" (1948),
which made Hollywood take note of her considerable talent.


Acclaimed roles in "The Great Gatsby" (1949) and "Frenchie"
(1951) were followed by the part in "A Place in the Sun" that
quashed her sexy image -- she played the dowdy, frumpy factory
worker made pregnant by Montgomery Clift, who drops her for a
radiant Elizabeth Taylor. The role firmly established her
reputation as an actress.

Winters was directed by a who's who of Hollywood's masters,
including George Stevens, Robert Siodmak and Charles Laughton.
Stanley Kubrick cast her in 1962 as Charlotte Haze, the mother
of "Lolita."

She had a roving romantic eye in "Alfie" (1967) and her
sights set on crime as Ma Barker in "Bloody Mama" (1970). Other
shrill mother roles included the 1968 counterculture film "Wild
in the Streets" and Paul Mazursky's acclaimed 1976 film, "Next
Stop, Greenwich Village."

That same year she made "The Tenant" for another famous
director, Roman Polanski, in France.

In the early 1970s, she starred in a number of films with
dark themes, including "What's the Matter With Helen" and "Who
Slew Auntie Roo," in which she played, in effect, the witch who
fattens up Hansel and Gretel.

A student -- and later teacher -- of the "method" school of
acting, Winters also won an Emmy Award for "Two is the Number"
in 1963.

She gained renewed fame with her 1980 autobiography,
"Shelley, Also Known As Shirley," which detailed not only her
three marriages but her affairs with the likes of Marlon
Brando, Errol Flynn and Burt Lancaster.

She hit the talk-show circuit to plug her second
autobiography, "The Best of Times -- The Worst of Times." While
she expressed her social and political views, hosts Phil
Donohue and Johnny Carson never missed a chance to ask her
about the love affairs.

Winters was married and divorced from Paul Mayer, Italian
actor Vittorio Gassman, with whom she had a daughter, and actor
Anthony Franciosa. She divided her time between California and
New York.