Shirley MacLaine Overview:

Legendary actress, Shirley MacLaine, was born Shirley MacLean Beaty on Apr 24, 1934 in Richmond, VA. As of December 2020, Shirley MacLaine was 86 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.

BlogHub Articles:

Michael Caine and Execute a Gambit

By Rick29 on Aug 22, 2019 From Classic Film & TV Cafe

as Nicole. This review contains a spoiler. In the first 29 minutes of Gambit (1966), we see art thief Harry Dean (Michael Caine) execute the perfect heist with the aid of dance hall girl Nicole () and his partner Emile (John Abbott). Of course, it turns out that ... Read full article

The Five Best Performances

By Rick29 on Apr 25, 2019 From Classic Film & TV Cafe

1. The Apartment (1960) - While often played strong, independent women later in her career, her finest performance was as the vulnerable, lonely, and borderline-desperate Fran Kubelik in Billy Wilder’s classic comedy-drama. Fran is smart enough to guess that the slimy business... Read full article

shows Michael Caine she's no fool in... Gambit (1966)

By Michaela on Aug 15, 2015 From Love Letters to Old Hollywood

I'm very happy to say I'm taking part in the great Anti-Damsel Blogathon. You really must read the other entries. Or else the ghosts of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Katharine Hepburn will come get you. You can find the list here. *************************************************************... Read full article

Lucky Me: My Life With – And Without – My Mother,

on Jul 1, 2013 From Journeys in Classic Film

This week’s review is slightly different; not being a memoir about a Hollywood star, but about being a Hollywood’s star’s daughter.? It’s a tough place to be in, trapped with a world of insanity that you didn’t ask for.? Past memoirs in this vein including salacious Hol... Read full article

and her only child "Sachi".

By Dawn Sample on May 12, 2013 From Noir and Chick Flicks

Stephanie Sachiko "Sachi" Parker (born September 1, 1956). She was the only child of actress and businessman Steve Parker, her husband of thirty years. At age two, she was sent to Japan to live with her father and his mistress. During the summer and at holidays, she visited her mot... Read full article

See all articles

Shirley MacLaine Quotes:

Martha: There's always been something wrong. Always, just as long as I can remember. But I never knew what it was until all this happened.
Karen: Stop it Martha! Stop this crazy talk!
Martha: You're afraid of hearing it, but I'm more afraid that you.
Karen: I won't listen to you!
Martha: No! You've got to know. I've got to tell you. I can't keep it to myself any longer. I'm guilty!
Karen: You're guilty of nothing!
Martha: I've been telling myself that since the night I heard the child say it. I lie in bed night after night praying that it isn't true. But I know about it now. It's there. I don't know how, I don't know why. But I did love you! I do love you! I resented your plans to marry. Maybe because I wanted you. Maybe I've wanted you all these years. I couldn't call it by name before, but maybe it's been there since I first knew you.
Karen: But it's not the truth, not a word of it is true! We've never thought of each other that way.
Martha: No, of course you didn't. But who's to say I didn't. I'd never felt that way about anybody before you. I've never loved a man. I never knew why before, maybe it's that.
Karen: You're tired and worn out.
Martha: It's funny. It's all mixed up. There's something in you, and you don't know anything about it because you don't know it's there. And then suddenly, one night a little girl gets bored and tells a lie, and there, for the first time, you see it. Then you say to yourself, did she see it? Did she sense it?
Karen: But you know it could have been any lie. She was looking for anything to...
Martha: But why this lie? She found the lie with the ounce of truth. Don't you see? I can't stand to have you touch me! I can't stand to have you look at me! Oh, it's all my fault. I have ruined your life and I have ruined my own. I swear I didn't know it! I didn't mean it! Oh, I feel so damn sick and dirty I can't stand it anymore!

Jerry Ryan: I told you to make a claim on me, to depend on me. I practically forced you. Gittel, I care for you. I don't want to see you hurt or lost or short-changed.
Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: So what's the future, Jerry? You gonna think any less about her? A little time'll pass, everything'll be hunky-dory? How am I gonna give her competition? Have a hemorrhage twice a year? Trap you that way? I got half of you by being a wreck, is that how we'll go on? Oh, you gotta short-change me, Jerry.
Jerry Ryan: I've tried not to.
Gittel 'Mosca' Moscawitz: That's what's outta whack. How hard you try. Who works that hard if everything's OK?

Charity Hope Valentine: Fickle Finger of Fate!

read more quotes from Shirley MacLaine...

Share this page:
Visit the Classic Movie Hub Blog CMH
Also a Taurus

See All Tauruses >>
Best Actress Oscar 1983

See more Best Actress awards>>
Grauman's Imprints

Also at Grauman's

See All Imprint Ceremonies >>
Shirley MacLaine on the
Hollywood Walk of Fame

See All Walk of Fame Stars >>
Shirley MacLaine Facts
When writing The Exorcist (1973), William Peter Blatty based the character of "Chris O'Neil" on MacLaine, who was a friend of his.

She and Barbra Streisand celebrate their joint birthday together every year.

Close friends with actress Julie Christie, who lived with Shirley's brother Warren Beatty for over a decade.

See All Related Facts >>
Related Lists
Create a list

See All Related Lists >>