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