Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift on August 18, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Shirley Schrift took her mother's maiden name (Winter) as her stage name and added Shelley for her favorite poet. When she saw the call sheet for A Double Life (1947) she discovered that Universal had added an "s", making her Shelley Winters.
Shelley Winters had a career spanning six decades who appeared in films, on the broadway stage and on television.
Shelley began her career on the broadway stage appearing in "The Night Before Christmas" in 1941 and followed it with the operetta "Rosalinda" (1942).
In 1943, Shelley Winters began her film career with a bit role in There's Something About a Soldier. She even had an uncredited role as a dance hall girl in Red River (1948).
Shelley received her big break in 1947 when she was casted in A Double Life (1947). She also appeared in The Great Gatsby (1949), Winchester 73 (1950), A Place in the Sun (1951), Executive Suite (1954), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Lolita (1962), A Patch of Blue (1965), Alfie (1966) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972).
She was nominated for an academy award four times: The Poseidon Adventure, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun and a Patch of Blue. She won an academy award for both A Patch of Blue and The Diary of Anne Frank.
She donated her Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank to the Anne Frank museum.
One of her final roles was on televsion, playing Nana Mary on the 1990's sitcom Roseanne.
Shelley Winter's early acting training was under the great Charles Laughton.
Shelley Winter's was also roomates with Marilyn Monroe when they were both starting out in Hollywood.
Shelley was married four times. Her first husband was Captain Mack Paul Mayer (1942-1948, divorced); her second husband was Vittorio Gassman (1952, 1954, divorced); her third husband was Anthony Franciosa (1957-1960, divorced). Her last husband Gerry Deford she was married to only hours before her death. On her death bed, she married her partner of 19 years.
Shelley Winters had one daughter with Vittorio Gassman.
Shelley Winters suffered a significant weight gain later in life, frequently stating that it was a marketing tool, since there were plenty of prominent normal-weight older actresses but fewer overweight ones, and her obesity would enable her to find work more easily.
In 1973, Winters even put on a short-lived Broadway musical revue entitled "The Hoofing Hollywood Heifer." Although it closed after only eight performances, this show was applauded by many critics, one of whom stated that Winters was a "Whale of a talent looking for a sea of applause big enough to rest her massive girth."
Shelley Winters was an actress who showed pizazz and knew how to take the ball and run with it. She was gutsy, uncompromising who cuold play the Hollywood game while exposing and criticizing it at the same time. She never apologized for any of it.
Shelley Winters passed away on January 14, 2006 of natural causes at the age of 85.