A Deeper Look

Searching for Shelley Duvall's Houston Snow Day

In a recent story, the famed and elusive Houston actress recalls snowy Bayou City memories.

By Dianna Wray February 12, 2021

The last time anyone heard from famed actress Shelley Duvall was back in 2016 when she sat for an infamous interview on Dr. Phil—until this week, at least, when The Hollywood Reporter published a wonderful profile about the Houston performer. It's a much more fitting look at the actress, one that celebrates her story, that of an accidental performer, discovered here back in 1970 by Robert Altman. She is still remembered for remarkable performances (including her fantastic Altman film performances, the emotionally punishing role in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and the series that has her indelibly linked to the childhoods of anyone growing up in the 1980s, Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre) and for her abrupt disappearance from public life and the screen in the 1990s. 

Some things, like exactly where she now lives in the Texas Hill Country (understandably) and why she came home to Texas, leaving her life in California behind all those decades ago, stay behind the curtain. However, the story does detail her Houston roots, and, intriguingly, one of those rare and miraculous days in this town where it really, truly snowed. But the story doesn't pin down what day she is referring to, so we at Houstonia put on our sleuthing hat to attempt to suss it out.

Duvall moved to Houston with her family (her dad was a cattle auctioneer-turned-lawyer and her mom started Space City Realty) in the 1950s when she was about five years old, and at one point in the piece (which you should absolutely go read if you haven't read it yet), she recounts her memory of a snow day: 

"They let school out. Everybody couldn't wait to get home. We all built snowmen in the front yard. The thing is, by the time we built the snowman, everything else was green again. Because we'd used up all the snow." 

Since we're not exactly known for our cold weather down here, there are only a few days Duvall could be referring to. Considering the fact that starting with a historic 20-inch snowfall in 1895, it has only snowed about 40 times, or roughly once every few years, in Houston.

So our educated guess? Duvall is either recalling 1957 snow day (it snowed barely an inch, which fits with her snowman memory, but it also snowed so little that it's unlikely school was let out early) or the February 12, 1960—yes, that would be today—snowfall, which dropped 4.4 inches on the city. Why do we think it's this one? Well, Duvall would have been about 11 years old, so the timeline works, and although snow itself is a big event here, it would have taken more than a drizzling to get everyone let out of school. Snow started coming down that morning, according to KTRK, and continued into the night, and it was an event that people growing up here at the time still recall as a magical day. So, while it could be some other much less impressive snow event that she is remembering, we're betting on this one. (Also, as we prepare for possible snow on Monday, you're not wrong if you're noticing there's a bit of a pattern here—when Houston does get snow, we tend to see frozen flakes right about this time of year, going all the way back to the 1895 record holder.)

And if you're wondering if there are any other key Houston moments from Duvall's life that you didn't know about? Well, she graduated from Waltrip High School in 1967, briefly attended South Texas Junior College, and that 1970 screen test, which sold MGM on Altman's request to cast her in her first film role as an Astrodome tour guide in Brewster McCloud? It was actually shot in the rose garden near the Houston Zoo, next to an angel statue. It wasn't snowing then, of course, it's just a fun thing to know.

But seriously, Duvall's talent and career have too long been overshadowed by that shady 2016 incident, her reclusive life today, and other things. It's good to see her being given her proper due. If it does end up snowing on Monday, go out and enjoy it, and savor the fact that doing so is giving you something else to share with this talented woman that came out of our wonderful town. 

Filed under
Show Comments