The Shelly Winters Blogathon! “Lolita”! Shelley’s Brilliant Performance in Stanley Kubrick’s Masterpiece!

Time for a Blogathon that begins with some very pointed, and deeply hurtful dialogue directed at our honoree:

Charlotte Haze: “Hum, you just touch me and I… I… I go as limp as a noodle. It scares me.”

Humbert Humbert: “Yes, I know the feeling.”

This short exchange captures the vulnerability of Charlotte, and the sexual disdain of Humbert toward her – and showcases some of Shelley Winters’ greatest acting!

The Shelley Winters Blogathon!

I’m excited to take part in this blogathon, celebrating the work of Shelley Winters, because there are so many great performances across so many genres!

Winters won Academy Awards for “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959) and “A Patch of Blue” (1965), but Im going to focus on one of her most controversial films ever…

How Did They Ever Make A Movie Of “Lolita?”

As the poster states, it was hard to imagine how Director Stanley Kubrick could make a film out of this notorious book.

Oh, and Lolita never wears a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses in the film…they came up with that teaser just for the poster!

I wanted to focus on Shelley’s incredible performance in Kubrick’s controversial movie – a performance that has much to do with WHY Kubrick was able to make this film work!

“Lolita”, released in 1962, was based on the scandalous novel from 1955, written by Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov.

The book was banned around the world because of it’s very controversial subject matter: a middle-aged college professor becomes infatuated with a fourteen-year-old girl named “Lolita”, the daughter of a lonely widow.

Here is the original trailer, which plays up the notoriety of the novel:

James Mason plays the college Professor looking to rent a room from Widow Charlotte Haze, and takes the room when he meets her daughter Lolita, played by Sue Lyon.

From there, Winters falls in love with Mason as he falls in love with her daughter Lolita.

According to IMDB:

Stanley Kubrick suggested that Shelley Winters read the novel before meeting with Vladimir Nabokov to earn his approval for the role of Charlotte. At the time, she was campaigning for future president John F. Kennedy. When Kennedy noticed what she was reading on the platform, he suggested she use a brown-paper cover so as not to jeopardize his election chances!

As Shelley’s character makes her intentions known, she unwittingly lets a pedophile into her life – and after they marry, she discovers his secret diary – which Kubrick has let us see throughout the film, so we are participating in her humiliation.

Her reaction to finding the diary is a masterclass in acting…Winters alternates between rage and desperation, all while on the verge of collapse, and the Actress balances it perfectly in a heartbreaking scene that showcases her at her best.

Peter Sellers plays a significant role in the film as well, and his scenes with Winters allow her to showcase her naive attempt at sophistication, while also suggesting a much darker relationship between them – all from her flawless portrayal of a lonely woman seeking love, wherever she can find it…

Her heartbreaking honesty in the film allows us to feel sympathy for someone, as everyone else in the film is inherently evil…

In a biography of Kubrick, the Writer states that the Director often clashed with Shelley Winters, whom he found “very difficult” and demanding, and the book says he nearly fired the Actress.

I found a line suggesting the same thing as well, but if she was demanding, it’s because the role itself is a delicate balance of loneliness, desperation and rage, and Winters nails the performance…

I was also eager to write about her performance in “The Poseidon Adventure”, but only so I could share this anecdote!

A “Tricky” Gene Hackman, A Livid Shelley Winters!

I found a great anecdote involving Gene Hackman, who Director Ronald Neame referred to as “tricky”. Hackman demanded to change a scene, shifting the focus from Shelley Winters to himself. Winters went ballistic:

“That scene is the only damn reason I’m doing the movie and Hackman’s not going to take it away from me!”

Winters lost the argument, and she later said that filming the revised scene was, in her words:

“the most dreadful morning I’ve had since I made a film with Judy Garland.”

What a classic line!

If you love disaster movies as much as I do, here’s a look at two of the best, and the catfights that took place among the big stars behind-the-scenes:

https://johnrieber.com/2014/06/18/celebrity-smackdowns-hell-upside-down-the-disastrous-duo-of-poseidon-adventure-and-towering-inferno/

If you enjoy these posts, why not subscribe and never miss out? It’s easy, and there are NO ads of any kind, just stuff I like…click on the main page and “follow” me on the upper right…

https://johnrieber.com

Leave a comment with your thoughts on “Lolita!” And make sure to go to these other websites to see more of the Blogathon!


https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com

https://poppitytalksclassicfilm.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/announcing-the-shelley-winters-blogathon/



Categories: 70's Cinema, Academy Awards, Art, Books / Media, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Hollywood, Movies, Pop Culture, Talent/Celebrities, Uncategorized

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39 replies

  1. Excellent tribute to Shelley Winters John, I always felt that she was rather overshadowed by Marilyn Monroe despite being room mates and friends at the time.. I know the studio tried to glamour up Shelley but they missed the fact that she was a wonderful actress who could sustain a very much longer career because of that. She certainly had a life that would make a fascinating and long running series..

  2. Agreed. Winters is brilliant here. I can’t believe she didn’t get an Oscar nomination. Have you seen the 1997 version, with Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith in Winters’s part? The remake is pretty good, but man, the original IS unsurpassable! Griffith can’t touch Winters’s cunning performance.

  3. Ha! Loved hearing about Shelley’s difficulties on the set of both this one and Poseidon. Obviously worthwhile since she is an iconic standout in both films. Great article, you made me want to give Lolita (not a favorite Kubrick) one more try, just to watch Winters.

  4. Hi John! I, too, think that this film represents some of Shelley’s best work. In fact, there are times when I’ll “crave” her particular scenes in ‘Lolita’. She was perfect, period. I read in one of her autobiographies that the Academy wanted to nominate her for her role but that they she turned them down (for reasons that now escape me). There is no doubt in mind that she would have won.
    It’s hard to justify it when you enjoy a film that is so controversial, isn’t it? You’ve done the film great justice.
    Thank you so very much for joining our blogathon!

    Shelley didn’t bend easily and I admire her fighting nature. Here is an anecdote from when she was filming ‘Heavy’ which will certainly amuse you. 😀

    According to James Mangold, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Shelley Winters clashed early on during the production. Mangold said that as Vince was preparing for what was his first leading role in a film, he had felt upstaged by Winters. Mangold said that given her reputation as a Hollywood star, she had been very loud and theatrical, making Vince feel overshadowed. With tensions running high, Mangold went to Winters and told her that she had to make things right with him. Winters begrudgingly agreed and on the next day when they were preparing to shoot, Winters had Vince meet her on set in front of the cast and crew. Winters told Vince of all the famous people she’s worked with, including Gene Hackman and Stanley Kubrick and the insults she called them, telling Vince that he now joined a long list of respected Hollywood people that she had insulted. Mangold said the tensions had gone away after that and they worked together well. (IMDb)

    • HA! I love that! Thanks for sharing…interesting that I have NO idea who the young Actor is…perhaps he could have learned more from her instead of flexing his ego….

      • Shelley had some amazing stories to tell! The actor is Pruitt Taylor-Vince and he was quite nervous because it is was his first leading role. Consequently, he has mainly been a supporting/character actor for most of his career. He’s a good guy but just didn’t know how to handle the divine Miss Winters. 😀

      • I just think he may have done better by learning from her and not battling her…I read a great story about Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, who was VERY difficult to work with…Ford put up with it, but the article noted that some of the “new kids” need to respect the legends

      • I absolutely agree with you. One of my favourite films is ‘Psycho II’ and an item of trivia is that Meg Tilly (who is actually quite lovely) had not seen the Hitchcock original. Because of this, she had no idea what a talented star Anthony Perkins was. This caused some difficulties on-set because she felt like Tony was being demanding. Can you imagine??

      • Terrific trivia…best part? She was cast in a sequel – and she never saw the original! Have you heard of “The Last Of Sheila?” It’s a FANTASTIC murder-mystery that was written by Tony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim! Here is the story of the film if you are interested: https://johnrieber.com/2019/03/04/psycho-and-sondheim-cult-movie-monday-has-a-hollywood-murder-mystery-the-last-of-sheila/

      • It’s pretty crazy! Apparently she never had a television set at home growing up (or went to the movies) which is why she had never heard of it. Even though the title … Hmmmm. 😉
        I have not heard of that film so I’m very interested to read it especially since I adore Tony Perkins. Thanks!

      • Perkins and Sondheim used to have Hollywood game night parties, and the film came from that…an incredible cast, if you read my story you’ll get a sense of just how great the film is…on my top 10 of all time…

  5. Thanks for a fabulous contribution to the blogathon and definitely readding this to my to rewatch pile. BTW If you want to write about The Poseidon Adventure for a blogathon, I’d love to add you to the Marines blogathon with this – we’re accepting actors who used to be marines – and this list includes Gene Hackman! Just saying…

  6. I have not seen Lolita, John. I am a movie philistine. I shall have to remediate that.

    • ONLY see the original…it’s based on a banned book, and the way they tell the story is fascinating..it’s also a master class in acting…both James Mason and Peter Sellers are brilliant as well…

      • And Sue Lyon delivers a real punch with her performance. It’s truly amazing how she understands her character sooo well. It’s a very “grown up” role and she masters it.

      • Yes, they have to be so careful about their approach to the material, and she had the “knowing” look while also acting clearly like a teenage girl…

      • My mother has seen this movie, John. I remember it was featured as a banned book in your recent post.

      • I didn’t mention “Lolita”, I posted about “Candy” and “Naked Lunch” but there is a similarity in the content to some degree with “Candy”, except she was a naive waif who was OF AGE at least! “Lolita” isn’t naive OR innocent, as you find out in the movie…not suggesting that the Professor’s actions aren’t disgusting!

      • Sorry, John, I confused Lolita with Candy. There are similarities as you have pointed out. Lolita not being naive or innocent is rather frightening at that age.

      • That’s one reason the book was so shocking…not sure it was really possible at the time was written but sadly, more likely in today’s world…it only works for me because the film offers NO sympathy for him

  7. Great to see this about Winters, she was a great actor

  8. I remember thinking that Lolita was a powerful film, with a great cast. As you say, Ms Winters was superb in the role. In fact, the 1997 remake was at all bad, with Melanie Griffith playing Winter’s role. But the Kubrick film is the best version by far.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  9. Lolita is a brilliant movie, and Shelly Winter’s performance is incredible. Another one of my top ten favorites of all time.

Trackbacks

  1. BLOGATHON… The Final Day is Here for the Shelley Winters Blogathon – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more
  2. The Shelley Winters Blogathon has arrived! – Poppity Talks Classic Film

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