I'm not the biggest Shelley Winters fan in the world, but I did admire her ability to morph throughout her career so that she could continue to act well into her 70s.
Before making it in movies, Winters worked as a chorus girl and on the stage. When Winters first came to Hollywood she roomed with another future star by the name of Marilyn Monroe. Although Winters started out as another blonde bombshell, her best roles and recognition came when she worked as a supporting actress.
Not content to just act, Winters also wrote two popular biographies in which she talked about her intimate affairs with many of Hollywood's leading men, including Sean Connery, Errol Flynn, William Holden and Burt Lancaster [among others]. Shelley was a playa before the term was invented.
My two favorite Shelley Winters roles occured in movies that were made 17 years apart.
In "Night of the Hunter" Shelley played Willa Harper who falls victim to the wonderfully evil preacher, Harry Powell [Robert Mitchum in perhaps his greatest performance]. The scene of Winters dead and strapped in a car at the bottom of a lake... with her hair floating in the currents is one of the most haunting images ever. In 1972, Winters was no longer the young wife, now she was the aging overweight wife, Belle Rosen, whose ultimate sacrifice [she dies of a heart attack after a long underwater swim to save Gene Hackman] allows others to survive. Looking back now, I find it somewhat strange that she dies in both of my favorite roles and ends up underwater.