SHELLEY II: Best of Times, Worst of Times by Shelley Winters
Kirkus Star

SHELLEY II: Best of Times, Worst of Times

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Not as much kiss and tell as Shelley I, but nonetheless a soft boil of gossip spellbinds here--as Winters bares all in this middle volume of her autobiography. Winters' filmmaking highlights this time around are terrific while in her lovelife she tries to bust the double standard (somehow without ever committing adultery). Instantly striking is that Shelley lives only with giants. She rooms with Marilyn Monroe, chats up Olivier, chaperones dead-drunk Dylan Thomas to Charlie Chaplin's Sunday open house, buddies around with Liz and Dick, Tennessee Williams, Elia Kazan, James Dean, and some Kennedys, and gets sleepybye with Sean Connery, Sterling Hayden, and Albert Finney while drawing a discreet curtain over the hotter moments. Less reserved is her telling of her marriage with second husband Tony Franciosa, a guy with severe mental problems (during this period of his life), her all-claws-bared battles with Ava Gardner for Tony's heart, and her separation fights with first husband Vittorio Gassman. What comes through all of this is a spirited picture of Shelley as a dedicated Actors Studio devotee during the 50's and early 60's, with Lee Strasberg at last telling her that she of all his followers has best absorbed and can teach his principles of affective memory and so on. One really gets to like Shelley as she fights off B-picture assignments from Universal and waits for the big scripts that come her way: A Place in the Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Night of the Hunter, The Big Knife, I Am a Camera, and, most strikingly, her role as the sad, doomed, chirpy Charlotte Haze in Kubrick's Lolita, a magical characterization he drew from her without her conscious effort. We also watch Shelley's entrance onto Broadway and her triumphs in A Hatful of Rain, Cages, and Night of the Iguana. Her pages on Iguana, as she replaces Bette Davis while being impossibly upstaged by Margaret Leighton and Patrick O'Neal, are the book's high point, with Shelley shoving nitroglycerin suppositories into naughty Pat and Maggie. One more triumph, with her weight problems still to come.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Simon & Schuster