Shelley Winters - the siren who became a star - dies aged 85

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The Independent Culture

During a film career spanning more than half a century she clocked up appearances in such films as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Alfie, Lolita, the dark classic Night Of The Hunter and disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure. In the 1990s she had a recurring television sitcom role in the US series Roseanne, playing the mother of the programme's star Roseanne Barr.

Winters died of heart failure at a Beverly Hills hospital. She was being treated there after a heart attack in October.

The actress, born Shirley Schrift, began her career as a nightclub chorus girl before moving on to small roles in New York plays before landing roles in the movies as a screen sexpot.

She soon graduated from syrupy roles to garner acclaim as a serious actress and win Oscar nominations, landing her first in 1951 for A Place in the Sun. She desperately sought the role, but was initially rejected by George Stevens, the director, for being too sexy. "So I scrubbed off all my make-up, pulled my hair back and sat next to him at the Hollywood Athletic Club without his even recognising me because I looked so plain. That got me the part," she later recalled.

Both Oscars came for supporting roles in The Diary Of Anne Frank in 1959 and A Patch Of Blue in 1965. She donated her first Academy Award to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

As well as her on-screen charisma, she was famed for her romances with some of the biggest male stars in Hollywood including Burt Lancaster, William Holden, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, chronicling the relationships in her autobiographies. Each of her three marriages was said to be stormy. She once said: "In Hollywood, all the marriages are happy. It's trying to live together afterwards that causes all the problems."

To a generation of cinema-goers she is best known for her performance in The Poseidon Adventure, for which she landed her fourth and final Oscar nomination. By the time she appeared in the 1972 film about passengers scrabbling to escape an overturned ocean liner, her weight had increased considerably. At one point the script made light of her size, as she was given the line: "In the water I'm a very skinny lady."

In addition to film and television work Winters had eight runs on Broadway, making her debut in Oklahoma!. She later appeared as the mother of the Marx Brothers in their musical Minnie's Boys.

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