Shirley MacLaine Overview:

Legendary actress, Shirley MacLaine, was born Shirley MacLean Beaty on Apr 24, 1934 in Richmond, VA. As of December 2023, Shirley MacLaine was 89 years old.

Early Life

Shirley MacLean Beaty was born on April 24th, 1934 in Richmond Virginia. She was reportedly named after legendary child actress, Shirley Temple. Her father, Ira, worked as psychology professor, a school administrator and real estate agent. Her mother Kathryn, was a drama teacher who gave up on her own show business dreams to raise her family. In 1937 she would welcome her little brother, Warren, into the world who would also grow to become one of Hollywood major talents. Because of weak ankles, Kathryn enrolled Shirley in ballet class at as a toddler. Soon, the young MacLaine developed a strong taste for performance. By the age of four, she was performing publically. She displayed her great tenacity and dedication at young age when she sprained her ankle while warming up a performance in Cinderella, right before going on stage. Instead of bowing out, MacLaine simply bond the injury, headed on stage, and performed without complaining. Because of her height and lack of male dancers in her classes, MacLaine often played the male leads in her dance recitals. This tendency for the masculine would follow her through middle school where she played on the all-male baseball team and held the record for most home runs in a season.

By the time MacLaine entered Washing-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia, MacLaine had traded in her baseball for gloves for pom-poms and joined the cheerleading squad. It was also around this time MacLaine realized she may never become a professional ballerina due to her tall height and lack of technique. Soon, she tried her hand at acting and began performing in her high school stage production. The summer of her junior year, MacLaine decided to head to New York to test the waters, audition for musical parts on Broadway, managing to score a chorus line gig in the latest production of Oklahoma. She returned to Virginia to finish her high school education. After graduating, MacLaine headed right back to New York

Early Career

When she returned to New York, MacLaine found work as model while auctioning for musical parts on Broadway. In less than year, MacLaine began working as an understudy to Carol Haney in the Broadway production of The Pajama Games. Although a great opportunity, Haney had a reputation for never missing a show and after a few months into the run MacLaine was ready to leave the production for a role in the musical Can-Can. Before she could resign, however, Haney broke her ankle and could no longer perform. MacLaine was called to take her place. Although the young inexperienced actress had a rough start, making a few mistakes along the way, she none-the-less managed to win over the audience. During this time Movie producer Hal B. Willis happened to be in the audience and took note of the pixie-like young actress and offered her a five-year contract with Paramount Studios. Soon after, MacLaine bought her one ticket to Hollywood.


In 1955 MacLaine made her screen debut in Alfred Hitchcock'sblack comedy The Trouble with Harry. The film was one of the Hitchcock's rare commercial failures, however, later in life Hitchcock would champion it as one of his personal favorites. For her role as feisty widower Jennifer Rogers, MacLaine would go on to win the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year. The film also helped establish MacLaine's silver screen persona as the bubbly, effervescent pixie whose irreverent attitude often masks a deeper sadness or melancholy. That same year she also appeared in the Jerry Lewis/Dean Martin vehicle Artists and Models. In 1956 she continued to appear in lighted-hearted fanfare as Princess Aouda in the big screen adaption of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in Eighty Days.

In 1958 MacLaine appeared in four films. The first was the opposite Glenn Ford in the George Marshall western The Sheepman. She would follow that up the drama Hot Spell opposite Shirley Boothe and the light-hearted comedy The Matchmaker opposite Anthony Perkins. Although neither film is particularly memorable, they demonstrated MacLaine's range as versatile, dramatic actress in addition her comedy work. All of that culminate in her next film, Vincent Minnelli's Some Came Running. The follows a cynical WWII Veteran Dave Hirsh, played by Frank Sinatra, as he travel back to his small town of Parkman Indiana. In the film, MacLaine plays Ginnie, an easy but kind hearted young girl whom has fallen with Hirsh and follows him home. The film was commercial and critical hit, with high praise going to MacLaine's heartbreaking performance. The film would be nominated for five Academy Awards, including MacLaine's first of five for Best Actress. While filming Some Came Running, MacLaine also made good friends with her co-stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and soon the rest of what has now become known as The Rat Pack. She soon became their unofficial mascot, even making a cameo as a tipsy gal in their most famous of films, Ocean's Eleven.

Continued Success

During the early 1960's MacLaine seemed to truly come in to her own as a performer, working in drama, comedy, and even musical theatre. Her first huge success of the decade came with Billy Wilder's The Apartment opposite Jack Lemmon and Fred MacMurray. In the film MacLaine plays Fran, a vulnerable, cynical but big-hearted elevator girl who captures of eye of insurance man, C.C Baxter. Unbeknownst to Baxter, she  in the midst of an affair with the company boss. The film was a massive critical and commercial success, grossing over 25 million dollars at the Box-office and gaining 10 Oscar nominations. The film would go on to five, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The film also solidified MacLaines talents as a dramatic actress, leading her another Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Although she was favored to win that year, she lost to Elizabeth Taylor, later stating, "I thought I would win for The Apartment, but then Elizabeth Taylor has a tracheotomy." The next year she starred opposite Audrey Hepburn in William Wyler's The Children's Hour as a boarding school teacher accused by her students of lesbianism. The next year she starred opposite Robert Mitchum as philosophically lost dancer in Robert Wise's Two for the Seesaw. In 1963 she reunited with Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder to play her now signature trope, a hooker with a heart of gold, as the title role in Irma La Duce. For her role she received her third Oscar nomination.  

 Decline in Quality

Although the start of the 1960's proves fruitful for MacLaine's career, by the mid sixties she was offered roles of less and less quality. Much of this can be attributed to the general change in Hollywood, as the glamour days of the golden era was on it's way out and the new generation of Hollywood, including her younger brother, Warren, crept it's way in. She did manage to score a big hit with the black comedy What a Way to Go as an accidental black widow, earning a BAFTA nomination for the role. She then starred in a series of forgettable comedies. In 1969 MacLaine starred in the big screen adaptation of the musical Sweet Charity, as working class taxi-driver Charity Valentine. The film was massive failure, only making 8 million of it's 20 million dollar budget back.

MacLaine would spend much of the 1970's away from silver screen but remained in public life. In 1970 she starred in her own short-lived television show Shirley World's  In 1974 MacLaine starred in the television special Shirley MacLaine: If They Could See Me Now, demonstrating her song and dance talents. The next year she received an Oscar nomination for her documentary The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir.

Come Back

In 1977 MacLaine starred in the ballerina drama The Turning Point. In the film she plays a former ballerina in constant disagreement with her long time frenemy, played by Ann Bancroft. For her efforts, MacLaine was nominated for yet another Best Actress Oscar. She next starred opposite Peter Seller's in the Hal Ashby comedy, Being There. The film was hit with both critics and audiences and is credited with reviving Peter Seller's failing career. In 1983, MacLaine starred opposite Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson in the James L. Brooks comedy Terms of Endearment. The film chronicles a difficult mother/daughter of Aurora and Emma Greenway. The film was hit with critics and audiences, gaining 11 Oscar nominations. For her work, MacLaine won the Oscar for Best Actress 26 years after her first nomination after her first nomination.

Later Career and now

MacLaine has since remained incredibly active in the film and television industry. In 1989 she played the curmudgeon Louisa Bourdreaux in ever-popular Steel Magnolias. She followed that up with her hilarious portrayal of Doris Mann (based on Debbie Reynolds) in Post Cards from the Edge. In the 1990's her highlights include, Used People, Guarding Tess and The Evening Star. MacLaine has also has gained recognition for her spiritual beliefs and has authored several books on the topic of reincarnation and the metaphysical. Despite entering her 70's in the new millennium, MacLaine showed no signs of slowing down appearing in big box office film like Bewitched, In her Shoes, and Valentines Day. In 2011 she joined the cast of the highly popular BBC series Downtown Abbey and starred opposite in the critically acclaimed Bernie. Currently, according to IMBD, MacLaine has 4 films in the works.


(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Shirley MacLaine was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one for Best Actress for Terms of Endearment (as Aurora Greenway) in 1983.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1958Best ActressSome Came Running (1958)Ginny MoorheadNominated
1960Best ActressThe Apartment (1960)Fran KubelikNominated
1963Best ActressIrma La Douce (1963)Irma La DouceNominated
1977Best ActressThe Turning PointDeedee RodgersNominated
1983Best ActressTerms of Endearment (1983)Aurora GreenwayWon

She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Shirley MacLaine's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #123 on Jun 29, 1963.

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Shirley MacLaine Quotes:

Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: I'm late.
Jerry Ryan: Yeah, I know.
Jerry Ryan: Next time I'll make sarcastic remarks.
Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: We're on next time already!

Jerry Ryan: Gittel, when you've been married to somebody for 12 years, lived together for 12 years, you don't just break up. You can't just forget it like it was... Well, anyway, I cut out. Ran.
Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: Stop running, it's the Atlantic Ocean already.
Jerry Ryan: I'm not running any more.
Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: Don't you see? If you can't talk to her, you're running.

Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: All my life I never yet been able to beat up one lousy man.

read more quotes from Shirley MacLaine...

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Shirley MacLaine Facts
Took ballet as a child and always played the boy's role due to being the tallest in her class.

In her book "My Lucky Stars", MacLaine wrote that before production on My Geisha (1962)_ began, Yves Montand bet her husband Steve Parker that he could seduce her. Parker, whom MacLaine learned later, was having an affair at the time, took Montand up on the bet; Montand won.

Older sister of Warren Beatty.

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