Best Known For
Shelley Winters was a popular American actress who is perhaps most remembered for her starring role in the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, for which won an Oscar.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
American actress Shelley Winters enjoyed a career that spanned five decades. Her debut film was 1943's What a Woman!. Pegged as a blonde bombshell, she struggled to breakaway from stereotypical roles. Her success in that endeavor came when she played a factory girl named Alice in the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, a performance which won her an Oscar. She was well-known for her many love affairs.
Actress, writer. Born Shirley Schrift on August 18, 1920 (some sources say 1922), in St. Louis, Missouri. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, theatricality came naturally to Winters, as her mother had been an aspiring opera singer. Her childhood was marked by tragedy, however, when her father was sentenced to prison for an arson he didn't commit. He was later exonerated, but the experience deeply affected Winters. "I developed a whole fantasy world . . . Reality was too unbearable. This ability to fantasize has been a powerful tool in my acting," she later wrote.
In her teens, Winters tried out for the leading role of Gone with the Wind during a casting call in New York in 1938. While she didn't get the part, Winters was encouraged by director George Cukor to finish her schooling and study acting. Working as a model during the day, Winters took acting classes at night. She landed some small stage roles and performed at a number of resorts in the Catskills during the summer.
Her first big break came when director Max Reinhardt gave her a comedic part in his English adaptation of Die Fledermaus, which was called Rosalinda. The operetta debuted in the fall of 1942, and Winters' career soon took off. Harry Cohn, the president of Columbia Pictures, saw her in the show and hired her soon after. She crafted the stage name Shelley Winters, drawing inspiration for the name from the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and her mother, Rose Winter.
Moving to Los Angeles, Winters worked as a contract player for Columbia Pictures, making $100 a week. She made her film debut in What a Woman! (1943) starring Rosalind Russell. It was just a bit part, and she was eventually dropped by Columbia after a few more screen appearances.
Determined to succeed, Winters finally got her chance to work with George Cukor on the critically acclaimed drama A Double Life (1947). She gave a great performance as a waitress who meets an untimely end at the hands of a character actor (played by Ronald Colman). This role helped Winters land a new contract with Universal Pictures. "To this day I feel that getting A Double Life was a miracle. So much of a successful career depends on standing on the right corner at the exact right moment," Winters later wrote.
More films soon followed, including 1949's The Great Gatsby with Alan Ladd and 1950's Winchester '73 with Jimmy Stewart. She usually played loose women who often were handed a gruesome fate. Winters wanted more substantial work, and spent time in New York City to study at the Actors Studio in order to learn how to shed her brassy, bombshell image.
profile name: Shelley Winters profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
In entertainment, where the line between fiction and reality is often blurry, names are a crucial part of a celebrity's image. Stage names are often chosen to make an actor or musician's name easier to pronounce or remember, or simply to make it sounds more attractive. Here are famous celebrities who have changed their names.
Name Changers 236 people in this group
Explore our collection of Best Supporting Actress Oscar winners, including Anne Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, Penelope Cruz, Octavia Spencer, Juliette Binoche, Marisa Tomei and Whoopi Goldberg. View full biographies, photos and videos, only at Biography.com.
Best Supporting Actress Oscar Winners 45 people in this group
Originally called Toast of the Town, The Ed Sullivan Show ran from 1948-1971 on CBS and was an American staple in the 50s and 60s. The American variety show featured the Who's Who of celebritydom over the decades, including Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Tony Bennett, Carol Channing, Lucille Ball, The Jackson 5, and The Doors.
The Ed Sullivan Show Guests 215 people in this group