I know many people who found Shelley Winters, the actress, so annoying that they forgot how sometimes genius she really was. And unafraid. How many actress' today, particularly ones who began as "glamor girls" (as Shelley did--she roomed with Marilyn Monroe as a young actress) would allow themselves the ultimate non-vanity of being so goddamn plain and, worse, annoying, that you want Montgomery Clift to shove her off that boat in A Place in the Sun?
I happen to think Shelley was the highpoint to many films including The Night of the Hunter (thinking of her corpse tangled underwater in seaweed gives me chills), He Ran all the Way (John Garfield's final picture), The Tenant, The Poseidon Adventure and of course, Lolita in which she whined and moaned with such hilarious awfulness (that movie wants us to laugh at her alongside James Mason's Humber Humbert!) that we find ourselves understanding the pedophile just a little bit more than we should. That alone is some kind of briliance. Her Charlotte Haze was a simultaneously showy and selfless performance, hammy enough to bray "Hum Baby!" or "I'm lonely!" with such cringe worthy crasness that we almost sink into our chairs (especially when she's teaching Humbert to cha cha) from mortification. And yet, she dies midpoint so we're allowed to, somehow, forget about her. She's a terrible memory. She seemed to always be a terrible memory in movies. Which is why she was taken for granted.
So, I'm not just sad that she left us (they have to go some time) but that her type is gone. Hopefully it will take her death for more to exclaim, "God I love Shelley Winters."
Sitting right next to Shelley at The Formosa.