Happy Birthday Shelley Duvall: Celebrating ‘The Shining’ and ‘3 Women’ Actor’s Career

by Keeli Parkey

Shelley Duvall, an actress known for her quirky roles and lanky figure, is celebrating her 72 birthday today. “The Shining” and “3 Women” actress was born on July 7, 1949.

According to IMDb, Duvall was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and raised in Houston. Her father, Robert Richardson Duvall, was a lawyer. Her mother, Bobbie Ruth Massengale, worked in real estate. She was one of four children. The future famous actress had three brothers.

After her graduation from Waltrip High School, Shelley Duvall went to work selling cosmetics. She had acted during high school but did not pursue the profession following graduation. In 1970, she was spotted by talent scouts at a party. This led to her getting to know famous director Robert Altman.

Altman gave the actress her first film role. This was as the character Suzanne in the 1970 film, “Brewster McCloud.” The director was so fond of her work in this movie that it led to roles for Shelley Duvall in several of his other films. These included “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” in 1971, “Thieves Like Us” in 1974, and “Nashville” during 1975.

A major breakthrough role for her came in 1977. It was during that year that she acted in “3 Women” as Mille Lammoroux. Her work in this film earned her great acclaim. She received the Best Actress award at the 1977 Cannes Film Festival. This film also starred Sissy Spacek.

It was also during 1977 that Shelley Duvall appeared in “Annie Hall” and was the host of Saturday Night Live.

Shelley Duvall Played One of Her Most Famous Roles in Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’

Robert Altman was not the only respected director Shelley Duvall worked with during her career. After her work in “3 Women,” the actress was cast by director Stanley Kubrick in “The Shining.”

This 1980 film also starred Jack Nicholson. He played Jack Torrance, while Duvall played Jack’s wife, Wendy Torrance. Filming this adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name was not easy for the actress.

Kubrick reportedly made things very different for her on the set. The stress of shooting took a toll on her psychologically. The director would force her into situations that were scary and stressful. For example, Kubrick made Duvall and Nicholson do 127 takes of the same scene. That set a record for the most takes in a movie.

One of Shelley Duvall’s most famous comedic roles debuted in 1980. This was “Popeye,” another Robert Altman film. In it, Duvally played the character Olive Oyl, alongside Robin Williams as the title character.

Interestingly, “Olive Oyl” was a nickname Duvall was given as a youngster. This connection to the character almost led to her not taking the role in “Popeye.” In the end, she decided to take the role.

After “The Shining” and “Popeye,” Shelley Duvall had other roles. She worked as the narrator of “Faerie Tale Theatre,” and worked in television and in films. It has been almost a decade since Shelley Duvall has appeared in a film. That was the 2020 movie, “Manna From Heaven.”

She reportedly resides in Blanco, Texas.