Teaching Students About Shelley Winters
Shelley Winters was a powerhouse of talent and versatility throughout her career as an actress. She began her journey in show business during Hollywood’s Golden Age and left an indelible mark in film history. As educators, it is important for us to introduce our students to the creative genius that was Shelley Winters. Teaching students about her life and accomplishments can open up discussions about acting as a craft, overcoming challenges, and the significance of rich characterizations.
Early Life and Career
Shelley Winters was born Shirley Schrift on August 18, 1920, in St. Louis, Missouri. Growing up amidst the Great Depression taught her resilience from an early age. After a brief stint in New York City working as a model and Broadway actress, she moved to Hollywood in pursuit of bigger opportunities.
Shelley made her film debut in 1943’s “What a Woman!” From there, she continued to shine with notable roles in films such as “A Double Life” (1947) and “The Great Gatsby” (1949). Students should learn about Winters’ early years to understand how the foundation for her accomplished career was laid.
Teaching students about Shelley Winters’ approach to acting will help them appreciate the craft more deeply. Winters was a dedicated member of the Actors Studio, which helped shape her method acting approach. Students can analyze her performances through discussions or written observations as they learn about various techniques adopted by actors.
Some key examples of her method acting skills can be seen in films like “A Place in the Sun” (1951), “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959), and “A Patch of Blue” (1965). Each film showcases Winters’ varying characters and remarkable range as an actress.
While Winters was undeniably talented, she faced several obstacles throughout her career. She became increasingly typecast in unglamorous roles due to her appearance and weight. However, she managed to use this to her advantage by choosing meaningful and impactful parts. Her two Academy Award-winning performances in “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “A Patch of Blue” displayed her commitment to overcoming challenges.
In the classroom, discussing the challenges faced by Shelley Winters will help students learn about perseverance, determination, and using one’s disadvantages as a source of strength.