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Shelley Winters

By RD Heldenfels Published: January 14, 2006

I think Shelley Winters is one of those performers whose place in your personal history depends on when you saw her. If, for instance, you knew her only from her talk-show appearances in her later years, you would remember her as a big woman and a brash talker, too loud at times for the mellow confines of bedtime TV. If you saw her in her occasional appearances on ''Roseanne,'' you would think of her as an old lady who might well have sprung from the comic's off-camera family.

But if you saw her on ''Inside the Actors Studio,'' where she hushed the crowd with a recitation, you would know she was one fine actress -- even if you were unaware of her Oscars and her Emmy.

I've got all those images in my head while reflecting on Winters's death. And one more: She was someone you were bound to stumble across if, like me, you spend too much time watching old movies on the largely gone late-late shows or on Turner Classic Movies. Indeed, it was on the latter that I saw Winters not long ago, as TCM replayed ''Winchester '73,'' a western starring James Stewart and featuring a tough, sexy, scene-grabbing Winters. She's good in that movie. She was good a lot of places. Because she obviously felt the need to work, she sometimes took roles and went into movies that did not serve her well. But her body of work was formidable. And it only took a few minutes on ''Inside the Actors Studio'' for her to remind people that she had chops.

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