Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

People We Like: Miss Shelley Winters

Those who only know Shelley Winters [1920-2006] from her later blowsy period and tv appearances in ROSEANNE as well as her famous underwater swim in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE might be surprised to learn that Shelley was quite an arty, ritzy dame back in the '50s when she was certainly one of the most prolific players around. Did she and Anthony Quinn ever stop working? - both were stars but kept busy in such a variety of roles - sometimes leading, sometimes not - so they did not always have to carry the picture - and could move from A-list movies to programmers and dabble with European cinema. Shelley roomed with Marilyn at one stage, and also married Vittorio Gassman for a few years, also Tony Franciosa, and worked, worked, worked.. here are a few of her choice ones I have been catching up with:
One of her six films in 1954, Shelley is one of the two female leads in PLAYGIRL - one of those romantic melodramas (like Joan's FEMALE ON THE BEACH) that journeyman Joseph Pevney was turning out back then. This deliriously entertaining farrago has Colleen Miller (new to me) arriving in New York off the greyhound bus determined to be a top model - she is met by old chum Shelley who is now making it as a chanteuse in a swish nightclub. Cue Shelley in some strapless numbers singing (or could it be miming - the lip movements look suspect) ritzy numbers like "Lie to me" and "There will be some changes made". Shelley though is carrying on with married club owner Barry Sullivan who takes a shine to the newcomer Colleen and is soon having secret dates with her. Shelley gets more and more overwrought and implodes with fury when she finds out what her innocent room-mate is up to and she causes a major scene as Sullivan tries to drop her. Then there is a gun - and you can work out the rest - but its entertainly done and great fun of its type.

Fascinating to see TIME OF INDIFFERENCE now - this 1964 black and white Italian (but with mostly American players) melodrama based on a Moravia novel features Claudia Cardinale at her most beautiful in the '20s setting with great hair and costumes, she gets to pout a lot and her husky voice is great. Its the tale of a wealthy family falling on hard times and being taken over by an unscrupulous businessman, Rod Steiger, who after making the mother (Paulette Goddard in probably her last appearance) his mistress now wants daugher Claudia for himself. Thomas Milian (that Cuban actor who did lots of Italian films) is the son getting involved with family friend Shelley who wants him for her gigolo. The son and daughter are too indolent and indifferent to try to change things and just settle for going along with what Steiger and Shelley want of them; even an attempt to kill Steiger is half-hearted. Goddard is wonderful here and reminds one a lot of Swanson as Norma Desmond. The director Francesco Maselli is unknown to me, but the other credits are satisfyingly familiar: producer Franco Cristaldi, writer Suso Cecchi D'Amico, photographer Gianni di Venanzo and composer Giovanni Fusco. I was surprised that I liked it a lot.

I have already reviewed 1954's MAMBO (that Italian oddity with Silvana Mangano) and her 1964 farrago A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME and that '63 comedy WIVES AND LOVERS and 62's kitsch classic THE CHAPMAN REPORT further back here.

Shelley was billed as 'Miss Shelley Winters' in the 1955 I AM A CAMERA where she co-stars with Julie Harris and Laurence Harvey in this earlier working of the Isherwood stories set in Berlin.

Her later better known roles included Charlotte Haze in Kubrick's LOLITA, in Strick's film of Genet's THE BALCONY in 1963, one of those frustrated wives in THE CHAPMAN REPORT in '62 for Cukor, she is outstanding in Laughton's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and her well-known turns in A PLACE IN THE SUN as Monty Clift's frumpy whiny girlfriend whom you just want him to leave for young Elizabeth Taylor; back with Stevens for THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK in '59and her best supporting actress win, that awful mother in A PATCH OF BLUE resulting in a second best supporting actress award. Then there were her over the hill starlets in THE BIG KNIFE and HARPER with Newman, out west with Lancaster in THE SCALPHUNTERS and with Ladd in SASKATCHEWAN, among so many others, and of course her star turn in Caine's ALFIE! I shall have to try and get hold of her memoirs - both of them - Shelley was notoriously indiscreet and tells all...

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