January 16, 2006


Sensing my interest in show biz from an early age, my parents once brought me back an autographed program from a play they'd seen Shelly in. I've never really cared about autographs (though I do have a tambourine signed by Charo hanging on my wall), but my parents had said that Shelly was amazing in the MOON FOR THE MISBEGOTTEN. I can't even remember how I'd have known about Shelly to ask them to get an autograph, but it must have been 1971's WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, a TV movie which blew me away at--uh--age one. I never really connected with her big hit THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, although I'm obsessed with Carol Lynley--please see her 1965 psycho-thriller BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING--and with Stella Stevens, who was like a horsier version of Barbara Eden, my idol.

Back to Shelley. I know there are many higher-ranked classics like LOLITA, but I highly recommend WHO SLEW AUNTIE ROO?, which is a Hansel and Gretel tale with Shelly as a nervous house mother at an english home for orphans. The crazy scenes of her chopping vegetables for the feast while singing a haunting, folksy melody are unforgettable. This is one of those psycho flicks which is in the same twisted style of Tallulah Bankhead's DIE, DIE, MY DARLING and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE? with demented geniuses Geraldine Page and Ruth Gordon. ROO's tagline was "The hand that rocks the cradle had no flesh on it." It's also a great title to reuse for a snuff film starring RuPaul--kidding!

Not quite as cheesy, but equally genius was Shelly's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, which I've rented over 7 times and everyone who I've turned on to it has thanked me. She wasn't yet heavy in 1955, and plays a foolish mother who allows herself to be charmed by a jailhouse preacher/murderer/psycho (Robert Mitchum) who then terrorizes her whole family. Shelly is excellent, but Robert, the kids and Lillian Gish (!) are the dominant forces behind this incredible b/w film, which even has a trippy moment as the kids float down the river to escape Mitchum. The little girl's named Pearl which she pronounces Peaw--if you are anything like Miss Guy and I, you'll be mimicking her adorable lisp for years after viewing it.

Also noteworthy, Shelly as Ma Barker in BLOODY MAMA ("The family that slays together stays together!") and CLEOPATRA JONES. In fact, if you click on IMDB.COM you'll find a comprehensive list of her films. Some sickies I'd forgotten, like WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN?, in which she stars with Debbie Reynolds. Plot Outline: Two women whose sons are both convicted murderers move to Hollywood and open up a dance studio. (!) One of the sisters, Helen, falls under the spell of a strange evangelist, and begins to go slowly insane. And I'd never heard of DIAMONDS (1975), an Israeli/US crime drama with Barbara Hershey. Or THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER, a ROSEMARY'S BABY-inspired TV movie with Shell and Abe Vigoda!

I do worship Kathy Bates in DOLORES CLAIBORNE, but are they really any other heavy, popular actresses around with Shelly's acting chops? I don't think old fat broads get too many starring vehicles today. But I'll keep going to castings anyway.


My biggest Shelly regret? Apparently, Shelly and Rip Taylor--what a pair--used to tipple almost nightly at a slightly upscale diner in WeHo. I went twice, but never caught either of their "acts." Here's ta you, Shell! They don't make 'em like you anymore, kiddo!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved her...........my fav was 'A patch of Blue' with Sidney Poitier in which she played a bad mother and a whore. God bless everybody.

9:16 AM  
Blogger ayeM8y said...

Shelly Winters was an amazing actress, who realized greater career longevity by playing characters older than her actual age. She was also a onetime roommate of Marilyn Monroe. I’m with Bunny on “Who Slew Auntie Roo?” What a whacked out movie that was. She made the best or, campiest movies during the 70’s. Wish I could see “Bunny lake is missing” but I can’t find it. I have seen “Once You Kiss a Stranger” where Carol Lynley kills a man by running him over with a golf cart? That one’s good. Ever notice how stars tend to die in three’s, the biggest set of celebrity death trio’s was Gianni Versace, Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana . Now we have Lou Rawls, Shelly Winters, and Anthony (Tony) Franciosa, who was really good in the “Swinger” with Ann Margret and “Fathom” with Raquel Welch. He was also Shelly’s ex husband!

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