Shirley MacLaine was born Shirley MacLean Beaty in Richmond, Virginia. Her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (MacLean), was a drama teacher from Nova Scotia, Canada, and her father, Ira Owens Beaty, a professor of psychology and real estate agent, was from Virginia. Her brother, Warren Beatty, was born on March 30, 1937. Her ancestry includes English and Scottish.
Shirley was the tallest in her ballet classes at the Washington School of Ballet. Just after she graduated from Washington-Lee High School, she packed her bags and headed for New York. While auditioning for Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Me and Juliet”, the producer kept mispronouncing her name. She then changed her name from Shirley MacLean Beaty to Shirley MacLaine. She later had a role in “The Pajama Game”, as a member of the chorus and understudy to Carol Haney. A few months into the run, Shirley was going to leave the show for the lead role in “Can-Can” but ended up filling in for Haney, who had broken her ankle and could not perform. She would fill in for Carol, again, three months later, following another injury, the very night that movie producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience. Wallis signed MacLaine to a five-year contract to Paramount Pictures. Three months later, she was off to shoot The Trouble with Harry (1955). She then took roles in Hot Spell (1958) and Around the World in 80 Days (1956), completed not too long before her daughter, Sachi Parker (born Stephanie), was born. With Shirley’s career on track, she played one of her most challenging roles: “Ginny Moorhead” in Some Came Running (1958), for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She went on to do The Sheepman (1958) and The Matchmaker (1958). In 1960, she got her second Academy Award nomination for The Apartment (1960). Three years later, she received a third nomination for Irma la Douce (1963). In 1969, she brought her friend Bob Fosse from Broadway to direct her in Sweet Charity (1969), from which she got her “signature” song, “If My Friends Could See Me Now”. After a five-year hiatus, Shirley made a documentary on China called The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975), for which she received an Oscar nomination for best documentary.
In 1977, she got her fourth Best Actress Oscar nomination for The Turning Point (1977). In 1979, she worked with Peter Sellers in Being There (1979), made shortly before his death. After 20 years in the film industry, she finally took home the Best Actress Oscar for Terms of Endearment (1983). After a five-year hiatus, Shirley made Madame Sousatzka (1988), a critical and financial hit that took top prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 1989, she starred with Dolly Parton, Sally Field and Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias (1989). She received rave reviews playing Meryl Streep’s mother in Postcards from the Edge (1990) and for Guarding Tess (1994). In 1996, she reprised her role from “Terms of Endearment” as “Aurora Greenway” in The Evening Star (1996), which didn’t repeat its predecessor’s success at the box office. In mid-1998, she directed Bruno (2000), which starred Alex D. Linz. In February 2001, Shirley worked with close friends once again in These Old Broads (2001), and co-starred with Julia Stiles in Carolina (2003) and with Kirstie Alley in Salem Witch Trials (2002).
MacLaine as her own website which includes her own radio show and interviews, the Encounter Board, and Independent Expression, a members-only section of the site. In the past few years, Shirley starred in a CBS miniseries based on the life of cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash–Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay (2002), and wrote two more books, “The Camino” in 2001, and “Out On A Leash” in 2003. After taking a slight hiatus from motion pictures, Shirley returned with roles in the movies that were small, but wonderfully scene-stealing: Bewitched (2005) with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, In Her Shoes (2005) with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, in which Shirley was nominated for a Golden Globe in the best supporting actress category, and Rumor Has It… (2005) with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner. Shirley completed filming of Closing the Ring (2007), directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, in 2007. Her latest book is entitled “Sage-ing While Ag-ing”; Shirley’s latest film is Valentine’s Day (2010), which debuted in theaters on February 12, 2010.
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