Nine Movies in Which Shelley Winters Dies in the Middle

The Night of the Hunter

There are not many Hollywood actresses who became bona fide stars by playing plain and/or obnoxious characters. Two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters was one of them. (Oh, go ahead and say "she was beautiful in her own way," but let's be honest.) Unfortunately, being a plain and/or obnoxious female character can get you killed, as far as those old movies are concerned. Here are the features in which Ms. Winters – I'll go ahead and call her Shelley – gets bumped off at some point in the second act. Spoilers ahead, obviously.

  1. A Double Life (1947). Shelley's first major role established a trend in mid-movie deaths. She plays a sassy waitress romanced by crazy actor Ronald Colman, who takes his part in Othello too seriously and makes her his Desdemona. Cause of death: strangled by Colman (who won an Oscar for this film).
  2. The Great Gatsby (1949). If you've read the novel (or if you at least saw the 2013 adaptation), then all I have to tell you is that Shelley plays Myrtle Wilson, and you know what happens to her. But if not... Cause of death: accidentally run over by a car.
  3. A Place in the Sun (1951). Based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Shelley can't hold a candle to Elizabeth Taylor, as far as ambitious Montgomery Clift is concerned. Cause of death: semi-accidental drowning.
  4. Mambo (1954). This little-known melodrama, set in Italy, took advantage of the mambo dance craze that was sweeping the US at the time. Cause of death: accidentally run over by a car.
  5. The Night of the Hunter (1955). Charles Laughton's cult classic. Poor Shelley keeps falling for the wrong men – this time it's psychotic preacher Robert Mitchum. Cause of death: stabbed by Mitchum.
  6. Lolita (1962). Shelley just can't hold a candle to her pubescent daughter, as far as creepy James Mason is concerned. Cause of death: accidentally run over by a car.
  7. The Mad Room (1969). Cause of death: stabbed by – well, this horror-ish movie doesn't reveal the assailant until the end, so I'll keep mum about the twist, even though you will most likely never see the film. In any event, Shelley's severed hand deserves its own credit.
  8. The Poseidon Adventure (1972). A cruise ship capsizes and everyone goes bananas. Shelley's a great swimmer, but her body can't take it. Cause of death: heart attack.
  9. Heavy (1995). Shelley plays fat Pruitt Taylor Vince's fat mother. Cause of death: heart attack. But wait, there's more! With 161 credits to her name, Shelley Winters bit the dust in a number of other movies, many of which are too obscure for me to find much information on. But there is 1952's Phone Call from a Stranger, for one. And there are several more movies in which she is killed at the end, such as Larceny (1948), Bloody Mama (1970), Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971), and Cleopatra Jones (1973). In this context, it's little wonder that Winters would be cast in the 1955 drama I Died a Thousand Times (in which she, ironically, does not die).