SHELLEY: Also Known as Shirley by Shelley Winters
Kirkus Star

SHELLEY: Also Known as Shirley

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Kiss and tell. . .and tell. . .and tell. . . . So Shelley's generally munchy autobiography is immense--even though it only takes her up through mid-1950s marriage to Vittorio Gassman. True, at the start Shirley Schrift was just a nice, bright, semi-innocent (an abortion at 15) Jewish teenager from Brooklyn--but before she was 20 (Shelley fudges a lot with her age) she was married to a Jewish salesman, a comic sexpot on Broadway in Max Reinhardt's Rosalinda, and spotted by Harry Cohn of Columbia pix. So, despite dreams of being an artist, off Shelley went to Hollywood to be made over. (""Shoulders too broad, bosom too flat. . .nose too wide; we may have to operate""). And soon the marriage was kaput, her standards got lower--celebrating VE Day in bed with a stranger, ""wondering what the hell had happened to the idealistic, chaste Shirley. . ."" She was now a ""selfish dumb blonde movie starlet,"" and the movies were lousy--until wise George Cukor and sweet Ronald Colman helped her to be great, more herself, in A Double Life. ""At last I was a star!""--a N.Y. stint in Oklahoma (hot stuff with Marlon Brando), Resident Blonde Bombshell-dom at Universal (sharing Errol Flynn's super-deluxe bed), night classes in Shakespeare with Charles Laughton, and longterm affairs with married men: ""Back Street agony"" with Burt Lancaster that only ended when she realized ""that bastard is fucking his wife""; and a Christmas-eve rendezous every year for seven years with William Holden. Career-wise, too, things were top-quality: she won the plain-Jane role' in A Place in the Sun by disguising herself well enough to fool beloved director George Stevens. But a visit to an Israeli kibbutz convinced Shelley that ""if I didn't have a family and a home, all the rest would be ashes."" And days later, traveling with ""fiancee"" Farley Granger, she met Italian star Vittorio: ""I tried to say 'I don't sleep with anybody on the first date,' but my Italian wasn't up to it."" Marriage, lonely birth of a premature, fragile daughter, ""complete mental, physical and spiritual affinity""--but ego- and culture-clashes led to an ugly, public breakup. Likable? Not very--despite Shelley's genuine attachment to her family and her art. But Volume One of Winters' spats and amours (with Adlai E. among those promised in Volume Two) is funny, klassy, and brassy without being tacky--prime popcorn for Hollywood appetites.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow