Shirley MacLean Beaty (born in 1934), known professionally as Shirley MacLaine, is an American film, television and theater actress, singer, dancer, activist and author. She has won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy twice, for her roles in The Apartment and Irma la Douce, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama twice for Terms of Endearment and Madame Sousatzka. She was honored with the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1998. She was nominated for an Academy Award five times before winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1983 for her role as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment. She won the 1976 Emmy Award for Outstanding Special – Comedy-Variety or Music for Gypsy in My Soul in addition she has also won two BAFTA Awards from seven nominations.
In 2012, she received the 40th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in the US film industry, from the American Film Institute, and in 2013 received the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts.
Named after Shirley Temple, Shirley's younger brother is the actor, writer and director Warren Beatty; he changed the spelling of his surname when he became an actor.
She had weak ankles as a toddler, so her mother decided to enroll her in ballet class at the age of three. This was the beginning of her interest in performing. Strongly motivated by ballet, she never missed a class. In classical romantic pieces like Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty, she always played the boys' roles due to being the tallest in the group and the absence of males in the class. Eventually she had a substantial female role as the fairy godmother in Cinderella; while warming up backstage, she broke her ankle, but proceeded to dance the role all the way through. Ultimately she decided against making a career of professional ballet because she had grown too tall and was unable to acquire perfect technique. She explained that she didn't have the ideal body type, lacking the requisite "beautifully constructed feet" of high arches, high insteps and a flexible ankle. Also slowly realising ballet's propensity to be too all-consuming, and ultimately limiting, she moved on to other forms of dancing, acting and musical theatre.
She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad and acted in school theatrical productions. The summer before her senior year, she came to New York City to try acting on Broadway, and had some success. After she graduated, she returned and within a year became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; Haney broke her ankle, and Shirley replaced her. A few months after, with Haney still injured, film producer Hal B. Wallis saw Shirley's performance, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures. MacLaine made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry (1955), for which she won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress. In 1956, she had roles in Hot Spell and Around the World in 80 Days. At the same time she starred in Some Came Running, the film that gave her first Academy Award nomination – one of five that the film received – and a Golden Globe nomination. Her second Oscar nomination came two years later for The Apartment, starring with Jack Lemmon. The film won five Oscars, including Best Director for Billy Wilder. She starred in The Children's Hour (1961) also starring Audrey Hepburn and James Garner, based on the play by Lillian Hellman and directed by William Wyler. She was again nominated, this time for Irma la Douce (1963), which reunited her with Wilder and Lemmon.
In 1977, she was once again nominated for an Oscar for The Turning Point co-starring Anne Bancroft, in which she portrayed a retired ballerina much like herself. In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In 1980, she starred in A Change of Seasons alongside Anthony Hopkins. In 1983, she won an Oscar for Terms of Endearment, playing Debra Winger's mother. The film won another four Oscars; one for Jack Nicholson and three for director-screenwriter-producer James L. Brooks. In 1988, MacLaine won a Golden Globe for Best Actress (Drama) for Madame Sousatzka.
She continued to star in major films, such as Steel Magnolias with Julia Roberts and other stars. In 2000 she made her feature-film directorial debut and starred in Bruno, which was released to video as The Dress Code. Other notable films in which MacLaine has starred include Sweet Charity (1968); Being There (1979) with Peter Sellers; Postcards from the Edge (1990) with Meryl Streep, playing a fictionalized version of Debbie Reynolds with a screenplay by Reynolds's daughter, Carrie Fisher; Used People (1992) with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates; Guarding Tess (1994) with Nicolas Cage; Mrs. Winterbourne (1996), with Ricki Lake and Brendan Fraser; Rumor Has It… (2005) with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston; In Her Shoes with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette; and Closing the Ring (2007) directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Christopher Plummer.
MacLaine has also appeared in numerous television projects including an autobiographical miniseries based upon the book Out on a Limb; The Salem Witch Trials; These Old Broads written by Carrie Fisher and co-starring Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds, and Joan Collins; and Coco, a Lifetime production based on the life of Coco Chanel. She had a short-lived television sitcom called Shirley's World. She appeared in the third and fourth seasons of the British drama Downton Abbey as Martha Levinson, mother to Cora, Countess of Grantham (played by Elizabeth McGovern) and Harold Levinson (played by Paul Giamatti) in 2012–2013.
MacLaine was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in December 2013. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1617 Vine Street and in 1999 was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.
In 2011, the government of France made her a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur.
Here are some famous numbers by Shirley MacLaine. Enjoy!
From "Sweet Charity": If they could see me now
From "What a way to go", with Gene Kelly
Gipsy in my soul (Royal Variety Show, 1977 - London Palladium)
At the Lido of Paris (1979)