Estelle Winwood

Estelle Winwood
Estelle Winwood
Estelle Winwood
Estelle Winwood


Estelle Winwood was born in 1883 in Kent and died in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 101.   She was still acting at 96, some record.   She had made her movie debut in the British “House of Trent” in 1933.   In 1937 she was in Hollywood making “Quality Street” with Katharine Hepburn but did not make another film until “The Glass Slipper” in 1955.   She then began a busy career as a character actress.   Among her films are “The Swan”, “This Happy Ending”, “Alice and Kicking”, “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” and “Murder by Death” where she was hilarious as the wheelchaird bound nurse of Elsa Lanchester.

IMDB entry:

When Estelle saw the girl on a white horse at the circus, she then decided that she wanted to be an actress. And she was from the age of 5, to the disapproval of her father. Her mother had her train with the Liverpool Repertory Company, and Estelle performed in many plays and many roles in the West End. In 1916, she made her debut on Broadway and worked with a number of acclaimed stage actors. Estelle spent the rest of the ‘teens and ’20s working in plays on both sides of the Atlantic. Being an actor in the theater, Estelle was not about to be one of those who acted in flicks and held out for a very long time. In fact, besides a small role in a few English films in the early 1930s, her real debut was Quality Street (1937), a picture that she undertook when she was in her 50s. Anyway, that was enough as it would be almost two decades before she would return to the big screen. She appeared on the stage in the plays “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “Ten Little Indians,” and “The Importance of Being Earnest.” But, in 1955, Estelle did return to the movies as Leslie Caron‘s “fairy godmother” in The Glass Slipper (1955). Estelle would spend the next 10 years appearing in films, often cast as eccentric, frail old ladies, some of whom could be deadly. Not to be left out, Estelle also would work on Television, doing guest spots in a number of shows. At 84, Estelle played a woman who was enamored by crooked Zero Mostel in the comedy The Producers (1967). Her last film would be the detective spoof Murder by Death (1976). When Estelle was asked, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, how she felt to have lived so long, she replied, “How rude of you to remind me!”.

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <>

The bove IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Article on Estelle Winwood on “Tina Aumont’sEyes” website:

A wonderful stage actress and later character performer who specialized in dotty busybodies, Estelle Winwood’s first love was the stage, where she would spend the first twenty years of her career before gaining her first movie appearance.

Born in Kent, England, on January 24th 1883, Estelle was acting in London’s West End before moving to New York in 1916 where she made her Broadway debut. The next two decades were spent commuting between London and New York where Estelle excelled in theatre, appearing in many popular productions including ‘Moliere’ (1919), ‘The Tyranny of Love’ (1921), ‘ The Taming of the Shrew’ (1925), ‘Fallen Angels’ (1927), and ‘The Admirable Crighton’ (1931).

After a handful of minor roles, Winwood’s first part of note was in the George Stevens romancer ‘Quality Street’ (’37) starring Katherine Hepburn and Franchot Tone. Estelle was very good as a suspicious neighbour and helped liven up this rather dull production. After a few television roles (which included playing the medium Madame Arcati in a 1946 version of ‘Blithe Spirit’) Winwood’s next movie would not be until 1955, when she played Leslie Caron’s Fairy Godmother in the Cinderella story ‘The Glass Slipper’. The following year she was a jovial barmaid in the terrific suspenser ‘23 Paces to Baker Street’ (’56), and then had a wonderfully eccentric role as Grace Kelly’s great-aunt Symphorosa in Charles Vidor’s lush romantic comedy ‘The Swan’ (’56).

One of Winwood’s most memorable roles came a couple of years later when she played Curd Jürgens’ alcoholic housekeeper in the charming Blake Edwards romp ‘This Happy Feeling’ (’58), which also starred Debbie Reynolds and a young John Saxon. Estelle was great fun and stole the show as a cocktail loving lush. Estelle was then a sort of Disney villain in the early Sean Connery adventure ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ (‘59), playing the interfering mother to Kieron Moore’s local bully. Her best role at this time though was in the enjoyable retirement-home comedy ‘Alive and Kicking’ (’59), playing a bored resident seeking adventure in old-age, alongside the excellent Kathleen Harrison and Sybil Thorndike.

Winwood’s next movie role was in the bar scene in John Huston’s ‘The Misfits’ (’61), playing a kindly old lady collecting money for the church. After playing Kim Novak’s neighbour in the Jack Lemmon caper ‘The Notorious Landlady’, Winwood had a fun part as a witch in Bert I. Gordon’s enjoyable spoof ‘The Magic Sword’ (both ’62). Back among the A-list, Estelle was then Bette Davis’s aunt in the exciting evil-twin thriller ‘Dead Ringer’ (’64), directed by Davis’ ‘Now, Voyager’ co-star Paul Henreid.

After guest spots on ‘Perry Mason’ and ‘Bewitched’, Estelle found 1967 to be a very diverse year. First she was Vanessa Redgrave’s lady-in-waiting in Joshua Logan’s overlong but lavish musical ‘Camelot’, and then a neighbour with a missing cat, in Curtis Harrington’s watchable thriller ‘Games’. Finally she was memorable in Mel Brooks’ cult comedy ‘The Producers’, playing an amorous old lady backing Zero Mostel’s certain-to-flop musical. After more television work Winwood’s final movie was the very funny spoof ‘Murder by Death’ (’76), playing the aged nurse to Elsa Lanchester’s Miss Marbles. She was a joy to watch and once again stole the show from a fantastic cast that included Oscar winners Alec Guinness, Maggie Smith and David Niven. Estelle’s final screen appearance was in a 1980 episode of ‘Quincy’ which, at 96 years of age, made her the oldest actor working in America.

Married four times, Estelle Winwood died in her sleep in California, on June 20th 1984, aged 101. In an acting career of over 80 years, she was the oldest member of the Screen Actors Guild at the time of her death. A wonderful scene-stealer and vastly talented actress, the shrewd Estelle Winwood was a perfectionist who didn’t suffer fools and always called the shots on her career path. And what a diverse career it was!

Favourite Movie: 23 Paces to Baker Street
Favourite Performance: Alive and Kicking

 The above article can also be accessed online here.

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