Saturday, January 14, 2006

Oscar-Winning Actress Shelley Winters Dies at 85

AP — Shelley Winters, the forceful, outspoken star who graduated from blond bombshell parts to dramas, winning Academy Awards as supporting actress in "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "A Patch of Blue," has died. She was 85. Winters died of heart failure at The Rehabilitation Centre of Beverly Hills, said her publicist Dale Olson. She was taken into hospital in October after suffering a heart attack.

The actress sustained her long career by repeatedly reinventing herself. Starting as a nightclub chorus girl, she advanced to supporting roles in New York plays, then became famous as a Hollywood sexpot. A devotee of the Actors Studio, she switched to serious roles as she matured, and she won her Oscars portraying mothers. Still working well into her 70s, she had a recurring role as Roseanne's grandmother on the 1990s TV show "Roseanne."

In 1959's "The Diary of Anne Frank," she was Petronella Van Daan, mother of Peter Van Daan and one of eight Jewish refugees in World War II Holland who hid for more than a year in cramped quarters until they were betrayed and sent to Nazi death camps. The socially conscious Winters donated her Oscar statuette to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

In 1965's "Patch of Blue," she portrayed a hateful, foul-mouthed mother who tries to keep her blind daughter, who was white, apart from the kind black man who has befriended her.

Ever vocal on social and political matters, Winters was a favoured guest on TV talk shows, and she demonstrated her frankness in two autobiographies. She wrote openly in them of her romances with Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable and other leading men.

My favorite Shelley Winters movies:

A Place in the Sun © 1951
Behave Yourself! © 1951
I Am a Camera © 1955
The Night of the Hunter © 1955
Lolita © 1962
A Patch of Blue © 1965
Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? © 1971
What's the Matter With Helen? © 1971
The Poseidon Adventure © 1972
Cleopatra Jones © 1973
The Visitor © 1979

Though I own most of these on DVD (the ones available on DVD, that is), my all-time favorite is A Patch of Blue. I loved everything about the movie, from the terrific performances to the outstanding film score. For those who may not have seen it, here's a quick synopsis: When Gordon Ralfe, a handsome, hard-working black man encounters Selina, a blind white girl, he befriends the lonely woman. Her only true friend, Gordon introduces Selina to a whole world beyond the confines of her deprived home life. Based on Elizabeth Kata's novel.

Such an excellent movie. Shelley does a great job as the foul-mouthed, platinum blonde Roseanne, so good in fact that you'll wanna belt her one! LOL! As one reviewer put it: "As sharp and horrible as a root canal, she marches around the tiny apartment she shares with her daughter and father, ordering Selina about like an indentured servant: "Where's my dinner?" she bellows like a foghorn." I couldn't have put it better myself. Thankfully this classic is now available on DVD, so rent it and enjoy. You won't regret it.

R.I.P., Shelley. Thank you for all the great memories.


Blogger Terri said...

I was just about to forward you this article when I thought I should check your blog one more time today. Glad I did. I agree, she was great in the movies you mentioned, and she was great as Grandma Mary in Roseanne.

Saturday, January 14, 2006 6:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Cheryl said...

RIP Shelly. It's weird, I just had watched 'Night of the Hunter' the day before this news hit. Just had a strange urge to see it again.

Sunday, January 15, 2006 11:47:00 AM  

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