Actress Shirley Mae Jones was born on March 31, 1934, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. She was the only child born to Marjorie and Paul Jones, a beer manufacturer. At 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.
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.”
Jones struggled to find good roles after the cancellation of The Partridge Family in 1974. She attempted to relaunch her career with the film Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, and with the sitcom Shirley, but neither effort found a wide audience. For the duration of the 1970s and all of the 1980s, her work consisted mainly of television movies.
In the early 1990s, Jones focused her efforts on a successful concert career, touring the U.S. as a singer. Most recently, she continued to work in television, where her credits included a recurring role on The Drew Carey Show, and guest appearances on Melrose Place and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. In early 2008, it was announced that Shirley would play Colleen Brady on the soap opera Days of our Lives.
Both in their 80’s, Shirley and her husband, Marty Ingels, are still working in television and the occasional movie.
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. Jones married actor Marty Ingels in 1977.
Do you have a favorite Shirley Jones movie?