Shelley Duvall

Shelley Duvall Biography

Shelley Alexis Duvall (born July 7, 1949) is an American actress, producer, writer, singer and comedian. She began her career in various Robert Altman films in the 1970s, including Brewster McCloud (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Thieves Like Us (1974), Nashville (1975), and 3 Women (1977), which won her the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actress and a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress. Duvall had a supporting role in Annie Hall (1977) before starring in lead roles in Popeye (1980) and The Shining (1980).

Later, Duvall appeared in Time Bandits (1981), Frankenweenie (1984), and The Portrait of a Lady (1996). She is also an Emmy-nominated producer responsible for Faerie Tale Theatre and other child-friendly programming. Duvall's most recent performance was in Manna from Heaven (2002).

Early life

Shelley Alexis Duvall was born on July 7, 1949 in Houston, Texas, the daughter of Bobbie Ruth Crawford and Robert Richardson "Bobby" Duvall (1919-1995), a lawyer (not to be confused with actor Robert Duvall). Duvall has three brothers; Scott, Shane and Stewart.

After leaving school, Duvall sold cosmetics at Foley's and attended South Texas Junior College, where she majored in Nutrition and Diet Therapy.


She met Robert Altman when he was shooting Brewster McCloud (1970) on location. He offered Duvall a part in the film. She said, "I got tired of arguing, and thought maybe I am an actress. They told me to come. I simply got on a plane and did it. I was swept away." Duvall had never left Texas before Altman offered her a film role. She flew to Hollywood and landed the role of a free-spirited love interest to Bud Cort's reclusive Brewster in Brewster McCloud.


Altman chose Duvall for roles as an unsatisfied mail-order bride in McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), the daughter of a convict and mistress to Keith Carradine's character in Thieves Like Us (1974), a spaced-out groupie in Nashville (1975), and a sympathetic Wild West woman in Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976).

The same year, Duvall left Altman to star as Bernice, a wealthy girl from Wisconsin in PBS"?s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald"?s short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair. She also hosted an evening of Saturday Night Live and appeared in 5 sketches: "Programming Change," "Video Vixens," "Night of the Moonies," "Van Arguments" and "Goodnights."

In 1977, Duvall starred as Mildred "Millie" Lammoreaux in Altman's 3 Women. Duvall's performance garnered the award for Best Actress at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival and the LAFCA Award for Best Actress. She appeared in a minor role in Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977).


Duvall's next role was Wendy Torrance in The Shining (1980) directed by Stanley Kubrick. Jack Nicholson states in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures that Kubrick was great to work with but that he was "a different director" with Duvall. Because of Kubrick's methodical nature, principal photography took a year to complete. Kubrick and Duvall argued frequently, although Duvall later said she learned more from working with Kubrick on The Shining than she did on all her earlier films. In order to give The Shining the psychological horror it needed, director Stanley Kubrick antagonized his actors. The film"?s script was changed so often that Nicholson stopped reading each draft. Kubrick intentionally isolated Duvall and argued with her often. Duvall was forced to perform the iconic and exhausting baseball bat scene 127 times. Afterwards, Duvall presented Kubrick with clumps of hair that had fallen out due to the extreme stress of filming.

While Duvall was in London shooting The Shining, Altman asked her to play Olive Oyl in his big-screen adaptation of Popeye opposite Robin Williams, a role Roger Ebert believes she was born to play: </ref>}}

Her role of Pansy in Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits (1981) followed. In 1982, Duvall narrated, hosted and was executive producer of the children's television program Faerie Tale Theatre. She starred in seven episodes of the series; "Rumpelstiltskin" (1983), "Rapunzel" (1983), "The Nightingale" (1983), "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1984), "Puss in Boots" (1985), and "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" (1986). Since the program's first episode "The Frog Prince", which starred Robin Williams and Teri Garr, Duvall produced 27 hour-long episodes of the program. In 1985, she created Tall Tales & Legends, another one-hour anthology series for Showtime, which featured adaptations of American folk tales. As with Faerie Tale Theatre, the series starred well-known Hollywood actors with Duvall as host, executive producer and occasional guest star. The series ran for nine episodes garnered Duvall an Emmy nomination.

While Duvall was producing Faerie Tale Theatre, it was reported that she was to star as the lead in the film adaptation of Tom Robbins"?s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, which starred Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, her sister Cindy Hall and Sissy Spacek. The project was delayed and when it released in 1993 it starred an entirely different cast. She also landed roles in films and television series: the mother of a boy whose dog is struck by car in Tim Burton's short film Frankenweenie (1984), a lonely and timid woman who receives a message from a flying saucer in The Twilight Zone episode "The Once and Future King/A Saucer of Loneliness", and the friend of Steve Martin's character in the comedy Roxanne (1987).

In 1988, Duvall founded a new production company called Think Entertainment to develop programs and television movies for cable channels. She created Nightmare Classics (1989), a third Showtime anthology series that featured adaptations of well-known horror stories by authors including Edgar Allan Poe. Unlike the previous two series, Nightmare Classics was aimed at a teenage and adult audience. It was the least successful series that Duvall produced for Showtime and ran for only four episodes.


In 1991, Duvall portrayed Jenny Wilcox, wife of Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd) in the Hulk Hogan action-adventure film Suburban Commando. In October that year, Duvall released two compact discs, Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall... Sweet Dreams that features Duvall singing lullaby songs and Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall... Merry Christmas, on which Duvall sings Christmas songs.

The following year, Think Entertainment joined the newly formed Universal Family Entertainment to create Duvall's fourth Showtime original series, Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories, which featured animated adaptations of children's storybooks with celebrity narrators and garnered her a second Emmy nomination. Duvall produced a fifth series for Showtime, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, before selling Think Entertainment in 1993 and retiring as a producer. Duvall's production work gained her six CableACE Awards and one Peabody Award. A year later, Duvall landed a guest spot on the television series L.A. Law as Margo Stanton, a show dog owner and breeder who presses charges against the owner of a Welsh Corgi that mated with her prize-winning Afghan Hound.

She appeared as the vain, over-friendly, but harmless Countess Geminisister to the calculating Gilbert Osmond (John Malkovich)in Jane Campion's 1996 adaptation of the Henry James novel The Portrait of a Lady. A year later, she played a beatific nun in the comedy film Changing Habits and a besotted, murderous, ostrich-farm owner in Guy Maddin's fourth feature Twilight of the Ice Nymphs. The same year she played Chris Cooper's character's gullible wife who yearns for a better life in Horton Foote's made-for-television film, Alone. Duvall continued to make film and television appearances throughout the late-1990s. In 1998, she played Drew Barrymore's mother in the comedy Home Fries and Hilary Duff's aunt in the direct-to-video children's film Casper Meets Wendy. Near the end of the decade she returned to the horror genre with Tale of the Mummy (1998) and The 4th Floor (1999).


In the 2000s, Duvall accepted minor roles, including the mother of Matthew Lawrence's character in the horror-comedy Boltneck and Haylie Duff's aunt in the independent family film Dreams in the Attic, which was sold to the Disney Channel but was never released. Her most recent acting appearance was a small role in the 2002 independent film Manna from Heaven.

Personal life

Duvall was married to artist Bernard Sampson between 1970 and 1974; the couple got divorced as Duvall's acting career accelerated.

While she was shooting in New York for her part in Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977), she met singer/songwriter Paul Simon. They lived together for two years. Their relationship ended when Duvall introduced Simon to her friend, actress Carrie Fisher; Fisher took up with Simon.

Shortly before the release of Terry Gilliam's Time Bandits, it was reported that Duvall and actor Stanley Wilson (who portrayed the town barber in Popeye) were set to marry. However, no further reports were released regarding this.

Duvall is an animal lover, caring for and incorporating many of her favorite pets into original children's stories and songs. In the 1980s and 1990s, she lived in Benedict Canyon in California with her pets.

Duvall has lived out of public view since her retirement in 2002. She is reported to be living in Blanco, Texas. In November 2016, it was reported that she had suffered from severe mental illness during the previous decade, and will appear on Dr. Phil on November 18, 2016 to seek help regarding various delusions, including the belief that Robin Williams was still alive and he was a shapeshifter and also that she was under threat from the Sheriff of Nottingham.


Year Title Role Notes
1970 Brewster McCloud Suzanne Davis
1971 McCabe & Mrs. Miller Ida Coyle
1974 Thieves Like Us Keechie
1975 Nashville L. A. Joan
1976 Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson Mrs. Grover Cleveland
1976 Bernice Bobs Her Hair Bernice Television film
1977 Annie Hall Pam
1977 3 Women Millie Lammoreaux
1980 The Shining Wendy Torrance
1980 Popeye Olive Oyl
1981 Time Bandits Pansy
1984 Frankenweenie Susan Frankenstein Short film
1984 Booker Laura Short film
1986 Popples Television film
Executive Producer
1987 Roxanne Dixie
1987 Frog Annie Anderson Television film
Executive Producer
1990 Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme Little Bo Peep Television film
1991 Suburban Commando Jenny Wilcox
1991 Frogs! Annie Anderson Television film
1991 Stories from Growing up Television film
Executive Producer
1991 Backfield in Motion Television film
Executive Producer
1995 The Underneath Nurse
1996 The Portrait of a Lady Countess Gemini
1997 RocketMan Mrs. Randall Uncredited
1997 Twilight of the Ice Nymphs Amelia Glahn
1997 Alone Estelle Television film
1997 Changing Habits Sister Agatha
1997 My Teacher Ate My Homework Mrs. Fink
1998 Home Fries Mrs. Jackson
1998 Casper Meets Wendy Gabby Direct-to-video
1998 Tale of the Mummy Edith Butros
1999 The 4th Floor Martha Stewart
1999 Boltneck Mrs. Stein
2000 Dreams in the Attic Nellie
2002 Manna from Heaven Detective Dubrinski


Year Title Role Notes
1973 Cannon Liz Christie Episode: "The Seventh Grave"
1973 Love, American Style Bonnie Lee Episode: "Love and the Mr. and Mrs.
1976 Baretta Aggie Episode: "Aggie"
1982-1987 Faerie Tale Theatre Host/Various roles Creator, Executive Producer
1985-1987 Tall Tales & Legends Host/Various roles Creator, Executive Producer
1986 The Twilight Zone Margaret Episode: "A Saucer of Loneliness"
1989 Nightmare Classics Creator, Executive Producer
1990 Rockin' Through the Decades Herself Television special
1992 The Ray Bradbury Theatre Leota Bean Episode: "The Tombstone"
1992-1993 Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories Host/Various roles Creator, Executive Producer, Writer
1994 Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Creator, Executive Producer
1994 L.A. Law Margo Stanton Episode: "Tunnel of Love"
1995 Frasier Caroline (voice) Episode: "Dark Victory"
1997 The Adventures of Shirley Holmes Alicia Fett Episode: "The Case of the Wannabe Witch"
1997 Adventures from the Book of Virtues Fairy (voice) Episode: "Perseverance"
1997 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Ocka (voice) Episode: "Oblina Without a Cause"
1998 Maggie Winters Muriel Episode: "Dinner at Rachel's"
1999 Wishbone Renee Lassiter Episode: "Groomed for Greatness"
1999 The Hughleys Mrs. Crump Episode: "Storm o' the Century"

Awards and nominations

Year Work Award Category Result
1977 3 Women LAFCA Award Best Actress
Cannes Film Festival Best Actress
NSFC Award Best Actress
NYFCC Award Best Actress
1978 BAFTA Award Best Actress
1981 The Shining Razzie Award Worst Actress
1984 Faerie Tale Theatre Peabody Award
1988 Tall Tales & Legends Emmy Award Outstanding Children's Program
1992 Shelley Duvall's Bedtime Stories Emmy Award Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour)
1998 The Adventures of Shirley Holmes Gemini Award Best Performance by an Actress in a Guest Role Dramatic Series


  • Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall...Merry Christmas (1991)
  • Hello, I'm Shelley Duvall...Sweet Dreams (1991)

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