About Shirley Mae Jones
A sunny personality and a gorgeous singing voice brought actress Shirley Jones to the Broadway stage, which in turn led to her career in Hollywood. She was a natural for big-screen musicals, but defied critics’ expectations for her turn as a prostitute in “Elmer Gantry” (1960), which earned her an Oscar. Her film work cooled in the 1960s, but she gained a following among younger viewers in the early 1970s as one of television’s coolest moms on “The Partridge Family” (ABC, 1970-1974), which also starred her stepson, pop idol David Cassidy. The show’s success ensured her status as a pop culture icon and steady work in television and on stage for the next three decades.
Born Shirley Mae Jones on March 31, 1934 in Pennsylvania, she was named after child actress Shirley Temple by her parents, Paul Jones and Marjorie Williams, who owned the Jones Brewery. From an early age, Marjorie Jones recognized that her daughter had a natural gift for singing. Shirley Jones went on to study drama at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, after which she performed with the Civic Light Opera Company. While in her teens, she was crowned Miss Pittsburgh, a title that started her on a path to a career in show business.
While vacationing in New York City with her parents, the 19-year-old Jones auditioned for the songwriters Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Her wholesome appearance and well-trained soprano voice impressed the team, who cast her in a minor role in their Broadway production of Me and Juliet (1953). Standing out among the large cast, Jones was eventually signed to play the lead on tour.
The following year, with some valid stage experience under her belt, Jones was cast to star in Rodgers and Hammerstein's film version of Oklahoma!. Released in 1955, the multimillion-dollar production met with acclaim from critics, who felt Jones was the perfect choice to play the movie's heroine Laurey. She followed the success of her film debut with a turn in the 1956 feature adaptation of Carousel.
Opportunities continued to come her way, and she landed leading roles in April Love (1957) and Never Steal Anything Small (1959), which paired her with leading man James Cagney.
In 1960, Jones shed her girl-next-door image by taking a dramatic turn in the film Elmer Gantry. Her performance as a jilted girlfriend turned prostitute earned her admiration and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. For the remainder of the decade, Jones continued to work in films. She returned to her musical roots as Marian the Librarian in The Music Man (1962); she took on lighter roles in the comedies The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) and Bedtime Story (1964); and showed her flair for the dramatic in The Happy Ending (1969) and The Cheyenne Social Club (1970).
In 1970, Jones made a transition to the small screen in ABC's musical sitcom The Partridge Family. She was cast as the recently widowed mother of a singing family. The show was a hit, making household names of its actors and actresses - David Cassidy (Jones' real-life stepson with Jack Cassidy), Susan Dey, and Danny Bonaduce. The cast capitalized on the show's popularity by recording a few albums which included songs like I Think I Love You and Doesn't Somebody Want to Be Wanted.
After "The Partridge Family," Jones remained very active on stage and television during the 1970s and 1980s; among her better TV features during this period was "Winner Take All" (1975), which cast her as a gambling addict; the terrorism drama "Evening in Byzantium" (1979); and "The Children of An Lac" (1980), which cast her as real life Red Cross nurse Betty Tisdale, who helped rescue Vietnamese orphans before the fall of Saigon in 1975. There were also attempts to return to a series - "Shirley" (NBC, 1979-1980) - which starred Jones as a recent widower raising her children in a small California town, while "The Adventures of Pollyanna" (1982) was an unsold pilot based on the classic children's story that originally aired as party of "Disneyland" (ABC/CBS/NBC, 1954-1990).
In the early 1990s, Jones focused her efforts on a successful concert career, touring the U.S. as a singer. She never strayed very far from musicals - a 2004 Broadway production of "42nd Street" saw her appearing opposite her son Patrick - but she also began to show an aptitude for broad comedy, most notably in a recurring stint on "The Drew Carey Show" (ABC, 1995-2004) as an older woman who becomes Drew's romantic interest, as well as in the comedy "Grandma's Boy" (2006) as a sexually aggressive senior citizen.
Audiences were reminded of Jones' dramatic talents with the 2006 TV movie "Hidden Places," which cast her as the Bible-quoting aunt of a young Depression-era widow left to care for her family's farm. Jones received considerable praise for her performance, netting an Emmy nomination as well as a nod from the Screen Actors Guild. That same year, she returned to series work with the short-lived daytime serial "Monarch Cove" (Lifetime, 2006), a soapy drama based on a German telenovela. Two years later, she joined the cast of the long-running soap "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ) for a six-episode stint as Colleen Brady, a mysterious member of the perennially troubled Brady clan. Meanwhile, she received critical kudos for her turn as the alcoholic mother of an angry and stressed talent manager (Noah Bean) being counseled by a recovering drug addict (Benjamin Bratt) on the short-lived drama, "The Cleaner" (A&E, 2008-09). Jones' turn put her in contention for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
Jones has been married twice. In 1956, Jones married actor Jack Cassidy, with whom she raised four children (including David Cassidy, whose mother was Evelyn Ward). After 19 years together, they divorced. In 1977, Jones married manic TV comedian Marty Ingells, who chronicled their unusual courtship in the 1989 book Shirley and Marty - An Unlikely Love Story. Ingells' eccentricities put him at odds with her grown children, and Jones herself twice filed for divorce before retracting the petitions.