While all the other acting categories have a good share of two-time winners, there are only two women who have won two Supporting Actress Oscars. Shelley Winters became the first women to do so when she won her second Oscar for her portrayal of Rose-Ann D’Arcy, a loud, vulgar and disgusting racist who treats her blind daughter Selina (whom she blinded herself by accident) like a slave, beating her at every possible situation. To see a character like this awarded by the Academy seems rather surprising but the weakness of the category that year and Shelley Winters’s popularity as an actress probably helped her to take home the Oscar. And, of course, as Mo’nique has shown last year, the character of a brutal and violent mother seems to have some sort of fascination for the Academy. I don’t want to comment on Mo’nique now but as you can already see, my level of fascination for the performance by Shelley Winters is rather low.
A Patch of Blue works like a fairy-tale, with a poor princess who is badly treated by her evil step-mother (only in this case, it’s her actual mother) and waits to be saved by a white knight (only in this case, the knight is black). In this context, Shelley Winters performance works because she is pure evil: full of hate and anger without a single redeeming feature. When we hear her footsteps outside the apartment, we feel just as scared as Selina (Elizabeth Hartman in an incredible beautiful and touching performance that should have won the Oscar). Shelley Winters is also very effective when she screams and shouts at her or even slaps her. Yes, she is the evil mother from a fairy tale and we have no sympathy for her.
It’s a very confusing performance for me. On the one hand, I love the movie itself and the performance by Elizabeth Hartman and Shelley Winters always holds her own against her and never feels out-of-place in the story. Just like Jane Fonda in Coming Home or Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur, Shelley Winters’s performance feels perfectly fine while you’re watching the movie but becomes shockingly lacking by further attention. I won’t deny that she contributes to the movie – a movie which is for me absolutely wonderful but I think her contribution only happens in the limited possibilities of her part. She is so effective because she is so limited – but this doesn’t make Shelley Winter’s acting impressive.
In the end, her performance works as the evil villain who is a total contrast to the saint-like Sidney Poitier, but it’s too little to compete with the other performances in this ranking.