Sunday, January 15, 2006

R.I.P., Shelley Winters

A fond farewell to Shelley Winters, one of the great movie actresses of yesteryear. She died at age 85 of heart failure. Winters won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar twice, including one for 1959's The Diary of Anne Frank.

The Los Angeles Times' Claudia Luther notes that the interesting career trajectory for Winters, whose professional respectability increased along with her waistline. A blonde sexpot party girl during Hollywood's Golden Era, she took in more daring and interesting roles as she grew older and heavier.

"A little bit Jean Harlow, a little bit Mae West, Winters was once lumped with such sexy starlets as Marilyn Monroe. But Winters from the start was willing to give up glamour for a good role. After years on studio contract playing negligible parts, she got a break in George Cukor's 1947 film, A Double Life, in which she played a waitress who was murdered by Ronald Colman.Four years later, she became a full-fledged star as the dowdy factory girl that Montgomery Clift lets drown to be with the beautiful, rich Elizabeth Taylor in George Stevens' A Place in the Sun."

Her good looks, in fact, initially kept A Place in the Sun director George Stevens from casting Winters for the part. The Times continues:

"Winters finagled a meeting at the Hollywood Athletic Club, dyed her hair brown and put on a loose, gray coat, brown shoes and white bobby sox. She waited in the club's lobby. When Stevens arrived, he didn't recognize her, and she didn't go to him. When he rose to leave, he finally spotted her. She got the test, and the role."

She wasn't afraid of risky roles and risky films. For me, her best stuff is Charles Laughton's off-kilter thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955) and Stanley Kubrick's Lolita (1962), in which, as Lolita's attention-starved mom, she was unforgettable in what could have been a forgettable part. Oh, and let's not overlook Winters' over-the-top lunacy in Roger Corman's Bloody Mama tribute to Ma Barker.

R.I.P., Shel'


At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Sigmund Spinoza said...

She used her looks to get her foot in the door, and her acting ability to kick it down.

What a talent - what a loss.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Brit said...

You MUST see "The Big Knife." Last night we watched "Poseiden Adventure" in honor of Shel.


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