Actor, writer, dancer, activist, Shirley MacLaine is one of the most notable performers and personalities in America. Born Shirley MacLean Beatty in Richmond, Virginia, MacLaine made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s black comedy, The Trouble With Harry (1955). She went on to establish herself in such films as Some Came Running (1959), for which she won an Oscar® nomination, The Apartment (1960), and Irma La Douce (1963), which garnered her a second Oscar® nomination for Best Actress.
MacLaine’s pixie charm and rich versatility earned her attention at the box-office and among the critics, but it was for her personality as much as for her performances that gained her notoriety. For a time in the early sixties, she was associated with the legendary Hollywood “Rat Pack” of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and company. Later on in the era, MacLaine focused her attention on government issues and became an active participant in liberal politics. During that period, MacLaine’s appeared in fewer films than her earlier years, but she did offer up a sterling performance as the eternally upbeat dance hall darling in Bob Fosse’s musical Sweet Charity (1968).
She starred in the film The Turning Point (1977), in which she and Ann Bancroft play dueling ballerinas. In the 1970s, MacLaine began publishing autobiographical books, including her first, 1970s “Don’t Fall Off the Mountain,” and “Out on a Limb” (1983). The latter deals with her New Age beliefs and reincarnation and proved the catalyst for a series of weekend-long “Higher Self Seminars” in the late eighties.
MacLaine returned to film in the 1980s and received renewed respect as an actress whose work had deepened with age. She won an Oscar® for her portrayal of Aurora Greenway, an overbearing mother who shares a prickly relationship with her daughter in James L. Brooks’s 1983 tearjerker Terms of Endearment. Other notable performances during the 1980’s include her rich portrayal of John Schlesinger’s Madame Sousatzka (1988), her crotchety Ouiser Boudreaux in Herbert Ross’s Steel Magnolias (1989), and an alcoholic showbiz mother in Mike Nichols’s Postcards From the Edge (1990). She has kept busy throughout the 1990’s with such roles as Kathy Bates’s fierce mother in Used People (1992), and a feisty but demanding First Lady in Guarding Tess (1994). In 1996, MacLaine reprised her award-winning role of Aurora Greenway in Robert Harling’s Evening Star.
Still acting as much as ever with roles in such diverse fare as In Her Shoes (2005) with Jennifer Aniston and Closing the Ring (2007) directed by Richard Attenborough. Most recently MacLaine had a prominent role in ITV period drama Downton Abbey.
Other family members in the entertainment industry include brother Warren Beatty and daughter Sachi Parker.