When I read about the death of Shelley Winters, I didn’t have anything pithy to say. I believe the only movie of hers I’d seen was the Poseidon Adventure, in which her swimming ability is a key plot point.
But what slipped my mind was that I’d seen her several times on television: Batman, Here’s Lucy, a number of episodes of Roseanne, and most notably, on Chico and the Man -what made it notable was that her character’s name was Shirley Schrift, Ms. Winters’ real name.
And then there’s another story, for which I will evoke the most vilified woman in show business, at least among the likely readers of this piece, Whoopi Goldberg.
Actually, the two women have something in common. Both have been given Oscars as Best Supporting Actress, Shelley Winters in The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)and A Patch of Blue (1965), Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost (1990).
Back in the days of vinyl, a friend of mine who worked for a record company sent me sample albums. One of them was the “soundtrack” of Whoopi’s one-woman show on Broadway (October 1984-March 1985), which I enjoyed tremendously. During her first monologue, she plays a drug dealer named Fontaine, who is visiting the Netherlands, goes to the Anne Frank House, and is startled to see there Shelley Winters’ Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank. (Apparently, Whoopi is still telling that story, perhaps not to such great effect.)
So, it is through Whoopi Goldberg that I first heard about Shelley Winters’ generosity of spirit.