best film:   Shelley Winters is in Howard Hawks’ Red River for just a few seconds as an extra that has to be thrown out as far as consideration for this category goes.  The same goes for her few minutes in Roman Polanski’s The Tenant – otherwise that may be the correct answer here. She is important (though not in the same stratosphere as Robert Mitchum) to The Night of the Hunter and that may be the superior work anyhow – so the 1955 Charles Laughton film is the answer to the question of Shelley Winters best film. The Night of the Hunter is much more than just the chance for Robert Mitchum to sink his teeth into the Harry Powell character – one of the all-time great screen villains – it has been described as one of the great American Gothic films.  Charles Laughton described it himself as a “nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale.”


Winters as Willa Harper opposite Robert Mitchum in 1955’s The Night of the Hunter



best performance:  Like Laura Dern a few slots ago, it is more about the accumulative body of work for Shelley Winters than one, singular, bravura performance. A Place in the Sun, in the long run, lands atop Winters’ list of best performances but there are a half dozen others that are a within an arm’s length.


Winters comes away with some of the best acting moments in A Place in the Sun (as she always does) even in the shadow of the more beautiful Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor. Winters plays Alice Tripp  – and the image of her alone on the boat is one of the most iconic in 1950s Hollywood cinema.



stylistic innovations/traits:  Poor Shelley Winters is one of cinema’s great victims – getting knocked off in A Place in the Sun, back at the bottom of a body of water again in The Night of the Hunter and, of course, disposed of, famously, by James Mason’s Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Winters was as talented as any actor on this list – an everywoman – who often out-acted and stole scenes from bigger stars and prettier faces. Her resume, career and skill, is similar to say a Philip Seymour Hoffman (maybe comparable in the looks department, too) and she is one or two big lead performances in great films away from being in the top twenty (20) on this list. She was not afraid to chew some scenery (Alfie, Poseidon).  She is in seventeen (17) archiveable films with four (4) Oscar nominations and two (2) wins.



Winters as Charlotte Haze – the mother of Lolita – in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film



directors worked with:   George Stevens (2), Robert Wise (2), George Cukor (1), Robert Siodmak (1), Howard Hawks (1), Anthony Mann (1), Charles Laughton (1), Robert Aldrich (1), Stanley Kubrick (1), Roman Polanski (1), Jane Campion (1)



top five performances:

  1. A Place in the Sun
  2. Lolita
  3. The Diary of Anne Frank
  4. The Night of the Hunter
  5. A Patch of Blue



archiveable films

1947- A Double Life
1948- Cry of the City
1948- Red River
1950- Winchester 73′
1951- A Place in the Sun
1954- Executive Suite
1955- The Big Knife
1955- The Night of the Hunter
1959- Odds Against Tomorrow
1959- The Diary of Anne Frank
1962- Lolita
1965- A Patch of Blue
1966- Alfie
1966- Harper
1972- The Poseidon Adventure
1976- The Tenant
1996- Portrait of a Lady