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Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows: A Look Back at What Made the Cult-Favorite ’70s Star So Special

Her first movie in over 20 years is coming soon!


The ’70s was a time of great creativity and experimentation in cinema, and many of the movie stars that emerged in the era possessed a quirky form of charisma that still feels fresh and exciting today.

Chief among those stars was the singular Shelley Duvall, a Texas girl who was discovered by the legendary director Robert Altman at 21 and became a fixture in his freewheeling and highly influential films.

Shelley Duvall in the '70s
Shelley Duvall in the ’70sArt Zelin/Getty

Duvall made her screen debut in Altman’s 1970 film Brewster McCloud and worked until 2002. After a long time without any appearances from the star, people began to wonder if she was okay, and a controversial 2016 Dr. Phil appearance, which was her first time being seen in years, didn’t help matters, as it showed the actress appearing to be in the throes of delusion and mental illness.

This TV appearance was widely criticized, with many pointing out its sensationalism and the fact that it likely didn’t present the whole picture of who Duvall really is. On top of that, for decades there had been rumors that Duvall had been traumatized during the filming of her signature role in Stanley Kubrick‘s 1980 horror classic The Shining, leading her to retreat from the public eye.

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The truth isn’t so cut and dry, and a recent New York Times profile showed Duvall, now 74, to be doing better than most people expected and living a quiet, no-frills life in Texas. She’s also making a return to the screen for her first time in 22 years, in the upcoming indie horror movie The Forest Hills.

Shelley Duvall movies and TV shows

We’re happy to see that Duvall is making a comeback and setting the record straight on how she’s doing, while also being honest about the challenges she faced in Hollywood. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable Shelley Duvall movies and TV shows.

1. Brewster McCloud (1970)

Actress Shelley Duvall in a scene from the movie 'Brewster McCloud', 1970
Shelley Duvall in Brewster McCloud (1970)Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty

Shelley Duvall was known as “Texas Twiggy” thanks to her thin frame and colorful style, and Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud introduced the distinctive star to the world, in the role of the protagonist’s love interest.

The next year, she had a small role in another one of Altman’s movies, playing a widow who becomes a prostitute in the Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

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2. Thieves Like Us (1973)

Shelley Duvall and Keith Carradine in 'Thieves Like Us' 1973
Shelley Duvall and Keith Carradine in Thieves Like Us (1973)FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty

In her next Altman film, Duvall played a woman in a ’30s criminal couple, in a Bonnie and Clyde-like story of lovers on the run.

She then worked with Altman again in his classic 1975 film Nashville, a sprawling tale of the lives and loves of musicians in the titular city. Duvall played an oh-so-’70s groupie in hot pants. In 1976, she had another small role in an Altman film, playing the First Lady in the 1976 Western Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson.

3. Annie Hall (1977)

Woody Allen and Shelley Duvall in 'Annie Hall' 1977
Shelley Duvall and Woody Allen in Annie Hall (1977)FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty

Woody Allen‘s classic rom-com Annie Hall marked one of Duvall’s first appearances in a film not directed by Altman. In a small but memorable role, she played a flighty Rolling Stone reporter who has a brief affair with Allen.

Duvall met musician Paul Simon, who also had a small role in the film, during the shoot, and they dated for two years.

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4. 3 Women (1977)

Actress Shelley Duvall in a scene from the movie '3 Women', 1977
Shelley Duvall in 3 Women (1977)Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty

In 1977, Altman gave his muse one of her juiciest leading roles, in the pastel-hued psychological drama 3 Women. Duvall played an outgoing woman who captures the attention of a more timid woman who’s new in town. Soon drama arises as their personalities start to merge in mysterious ways, and Duvall turns out to not quite be what she originally seemed.

Altman famously said the movie came to him in a dream, and he knew immediately that Duvall had to star in it.

5. The Shining (1980)

Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining' 1980
Shelley Duvall in The Shining (1980)Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty

The Shining featured Duvall in the unforgettable role of Jack Nicholson‘s wife. Her journey from timid to terrorized is hard to shake, and she screamed like no actress had ever screamed before.

Director Stanley Kubrick was famous for his demanding shooting schedule and exacting style, and there were many rumors that Duvall’s fear in the film was a genuine byproduct of working with the director.

This wasn’t actually the case. While the making the of the film was undeniably challenging, it didn’t leave Duvall with lasting trauma, and the recent New York Times profile of the actress reported, “she continues to have only good things to say about that intense yearlong shoot in London and her admiration for Mr. Kubrick.

6. Popeye (1980): Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows

Shelley Duvall in 'Popeye' 1980 Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows
Shelley Duvall in Popeye (1980)Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDB

With her skinny body, wide eyes and prominent teeth, Duvall was the perfect choice to play Olive Oyl in Altman’s live-action musical version of Popeye. The movie, which initially received mixed reviews but came to be more appreciated over time, gave Duvall a great showcase for her physical comedy abilities, and it couldn’t have been more different from The Shining.

7. Time Bandits: Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows

Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall in 'Time Bandits' 1981 Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows
Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall in Time Bandits (1981)AVCO Embassy Pictures/Getty

Duvall had a supporting role as a goofy Dame in this fantastical time travel film from the minds behind Monty Python.

8. Roxanne (1987)

Shelley Duvall in 'Roxanne' 1987 Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows
Shelley Duvall in Roxanne (1987)Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDB

In Roxanne, a modern-day rom-com spin on the classic play Cyrano de Bergerac, Duvall played Steve Martin‘s close friend who offers advice on his romantic pursuits.

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Roxanne was one of Duvall’s last prominent movie roles. In the ’90s, she appeared in the movies Suburban Commando (1991), The Portrait a Lady (1996), Changing Habits (1997), Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997) and Home Fries (1998), but for the most part her films after the ’80s aren’t as talked about as her earlier work.

Shelley Duvall movies and TV shows: Her second act

Shelley Duvall had an intriguing second act starting in 1982, when she founded her own production company with the mission of creating fun children’s TV shows. Her show Faerie Tale Theatre, which she hosted from 1982 to 1987, featured Duvall and a variety of A-list stars retelling classic fairytales. She then created another series in a similar style, Tall Tales & Legends, which ran from 1985 to 1987.

Musicians Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom, of the American rockabilly band The Stray Cats, dressed in cat attire, pose for a portrait with American actress Shelly Duval in 'Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme' 1990 Shelley Duvall Movies and TV Shows
Shelley Duvall with the Stray Cats (Left to right: Lee Rocker, Brian Setzer and Slim Jim Phantom) in Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme (1990)Lester Cohen/Getty

Duvall’s devotion to making visually dynamic TV for kids continued as the decade went on, and she then created Nightmare Classics, a less successful series that ran in 1989. The ’90s brought Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories (1992-1993) and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle (1994). She also played Little Bo Peep in Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme, a 1990 Disney Channel TV movie filled with an eclectic cast of musicians and comedy stars.

Duvall has often been misunderstood over the years, but her gloriously off-kilter screen presence and commitment to creativity deserve to be celebrated.

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