Shelley Winters

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Shelley Winters (18 Aug 1920 - 14 Jan 2006), Academy-Award winning American actress, who appeared in dozens of films as well as stage and television.

Shirley Schrift

Shelley Winters wrote an autobiography. That will be my main source for her life in the 50's. It's a bit hard to track, because she doesn't proceed gradually from early to late, she jumps all about in time, so bear with me as I try to fit everything back into a chronologic framework as best I can.

Shelley Winters was born as Shirley Schrift on 17 Aug 1920 in St Louis, Missouri the daughter of Jewish-American Jonas Schrift and his wife Rose Winter.

Shortly after WWII, she met Sterling Hayden who, in her autobiography, she calls "the most beautiful man I have ever met in my life." They had a short affair in 1954 or 1955, and did a film together many years later, where they play the King and Queen of the Gypsies.

In the late 1940's she was the roommate of Marilyn Monroe, about the time they were shooting for her 1950 film Frenchie. Christopher Isherwood introduced her to Dylan Thomas without telling her who he was. Dylan wanted to meet Charlie Chaplin, so she invited him to have dinner at her apartment with her and Marilyn and then they would all drive over to Chaplin's for his weekly open-house. Marilyn couldn't cook so Shelley cooked and Marilyn cleaned up. Shelley did not know that Dylan was a world-famous poet until his bizarre drunken behaviour sent Chaplin into a fit. Upon which all the guests left. At the time Chaplin had two sons, Sydney and Charlie Jr. In his autobiography, Chaplin never mentioned Charlie Jr who committed suicide in the late 60s.

In 1951 Shelley starred in the film A Place in the Sun opposite Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. For that work, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.

She was married to Vittorio Gassman from whom she divorced in 1954. He left her for a 16-year-old girl, Anna Maria Ferrero. Shelley was represented in her divorce by Jerry Giesler who also later represented Marilyn.

Shelley was invited to a private screening of Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando. She went with Marilyn, and on the way picked up Jerry Paris. At the theater they sat with Nick Ray the producer, and James Dean. Nick invited Shelley and Marilyn to come back to his bungalow at the Chateau Marmont to discuss the film. As they were driving Jerry back to his car, James Dean was playing chicken with them, driving his motorcycle around them in various ways, and laughing like a lunatic. Shelley says she was scared to death by his antics. She lectured him about it, and told him he needed to seek a psychiatrist. At the time he was sleeping with the lady who played Vampira on late-night television.

In the Winter of 1954, Shelley read the script for I Am a Camera and decided to do it. It required her going to London in order to learn the difficult accent. While there she met Sean Connery who at that time was a dirt-poor beginning actor. Tall, handsome, and quite muscular from throwing around beer kegs, which had been his last job. So of course they had an affair as well. As she was leaving London, she learned that Sean might lose his house, so with her last money (the equivalent of about $300) she in a sneaky round-about way managed to give it to him. Years later, when he was a millionaire, he repaid her with a blond mink coat in her size, from Christian Dior.

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