dying on vine

Shirley Jones

Shirley Mae Jones (born March 31, 1934) is a American singer and character actress of stage, film and television. She starred as wholesome characters in a number of well-known musical films, such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, and The Music Man. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing a "bad girl" in Elmer Gantry. She is probably best known as Shirley Partridge, the widowed mother of five children in the sitcom/television series, The Partridge Family, co-starring her real-life stepson David Cassidy, son of Jack Cassidy.

Early life

Jones was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh to Marjorie Williams, a strict strong-minded homemaker, and Paul Jones, owners of the Jones Brewing Company. An only child, she was named after Shirley Temple. The family later moved to nearby Smithton, Pennsylvania. As a little girl, she worshiped her father. Jones's mother, however, would frequently set her off, and Jones behaved rebelliously. Despite the spankings young Shirley got, she remained fiercely independent and as she was growing up, she wasn't afraid to defy her mother. Jones could sing almost as soon as she could speak. Encouraged by her summer camp counselors, her family arranged for teenaged Shirley to study twice a week, in Pittsburgh, with the world-renowned singer and teacher, Ralph Lawando. Afterwards, she frequently joined her father for a show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, where she fell in love with the musical theater.

Jones attended South Huntingdon High School. There, the independent teenager was drawn to unconventional boys her parents rarely approved of. She graduated from high school in 1952 and that the same year, she decided to enter the Smithton Beauty Contest. The youngest of 12 contestants, she won the pageant and went on to be crowned Miss Pittsburgh 1952. The prize included $500 and a scholarship to study at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. She enjoyed her apprenticeship at this school but despite her gifts for both music and drama, she wasn't sure she wanted to pursue a singing career. An animal lover since she was a little girl, she also wanted to be a veterinarian and in 1953 she registered for college in New Jersey. However, that summer, she embarked on a two-week family vacation to New York City. The vacation changed her life.

Early stage career

In Manhattan, one of Shirley's friends convinced her to sing for Broadway agent, Gus Sherman. Sherman was pleased to put Jones under contract, and with her parents approval, she resettled in New York and gave herself one year to become a Broadway performer. She only had $100 in her pocket. If she didn't succeed, she would move back to Smithton, and work as a veterinarian. Her first audition was for a replacement chorus girl in the long-running musical, South Pacific. Rodgers and Hammerstein, writers of South Pacific, saw great potential in Shirley. She became the first and only singer to be put under personal contract with the songwriters. The duo cast her in her second Broadway show, Me and Juliet. On tour, she understudied the lead and earned rave reviews.

Movie actress of the 1950s and 1960s

Jones impressed Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II with her musically-trained voice and was cast as the female lead in the film adaptation of their hit play Oklahoma! in 1955. Other musicals quickly followed, including Carousel (1956), April Love (1957) and The Music Man (1962), in which she often typecast as wholesome, kind characters. Also starring in the movie was a young Ron Howard. However, she won a 1960 Oscar for her performance in Elmer Gantry as a woman corrupted by the title character played by Burt Lancaster. Jones's character becomes a prostitute who encounters her seducer years later and takes her revenge. She was reunited with Ron Howard in The Courtship of Eddie's Father in 1963. Jones landed the role of a lady who fell in love with the professor in Fluffy (1965). In addition, she also has an impressive stage résumé, playing the title character in the Broadway musical Maggie Flynn in 1968.

Prolific character actress

As a teenager, Jones made her debut on an episode of Fireside Theatre. The part led to other roles such as: Gruen Guild Playhouse, Ford Star Jubilee, Playhouse 90, Lux Video Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, The DuPont Show of the Month, Make Room for Daddy, where she played herself, The Comedy Spot, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Name of the Game, McMillan and Wife, Disneyland, The Love Boat, Hotel, Murder, She Wrote, Melrose Place, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, among many others.

TV series

The Partridge Family

In 1970, after her film roles dwindled, Jones was more than happy to be the producers' first choice to audition for the lead role of Shirley Partridge, in The Partridge Family, a sitcom based on the real-life musical family, The Cowsills, for ABC. The show focused on a young widowed mother, whose five kids form a pop/rock group, after the entire family painted its signature bus to travel. She was convinced that the combination of both music/comedy would be a surefire hit. During its first season, it was indeed a hit, as it premiered in over 70 countries, though reviews were mixed, her prediction for the show came true. In turn, she knew it was going to be a ratings blockbuster, despite the show being crazy and campy, like other comedies that dealt with widowhood, such as: The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Lucy Show, Petticoat Junction, Family Affair, Julia, The Doris Day Show, Here's Lucy, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and Sanford and Son. While enjoying her tenure playing Shirley Partridge, she was in a real-life crisis with her emotionally troubled husband. This sitcom also starred a lot of unknown actors and/or actresses, such as 20-year-old David Cassidy (Shirley's real-life stepson) in the role of Mrs. Partridge's eldest son, Keith Partridge, ex-model Susan Dey as Mrs. Partridge's eldest daughter and second child, Laurie Partridge, future radio personality and current redheaded rebel, Danny Bonaduce as Mrs. Partridge's sarcastic son, Danny Partridge, and future bookstore manager, Suzanne Crough as Mrs. Partridge's youngest daughter and child, Tracy Partridge. Jeremy Gelbwaks played the original Chris Partridge, but had left the show after the first season because his parents were moving to another state. Future race car driver Brian Forster replaced him during the series' second season in 1971. Overall, the entire cast got along well with Jones, especially her real-life stepson, Cassidy, who bonded with his stepmother, both on- and off-camera. According to a 2000 interview on A&E Biography about his stepmother, she commented that Cassidy had disciplinary problems and reported late to the set. By 1974, the ratings were low, series' co-star and stepson, David Cassidy finally had enough of playing Keith Partridge, and one of Cassidy's teenaged fans died of a heart failure from injuries sustained, while attending one of his concerts. The Partridge Family was removed from the prime-time line-up, after four seasons and 96 episodes. Jones was outraged about the series' cancellation and she held the show together. In fact, it was one of the six series' to be canceled that same year along with Room 222, The F.B.I., The Brady Bunch, Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law, and Here's Lucy, to make room for new shows.

Within months of the premiere, Jones and her co-stars were already pop culture TV icons. Her step-son Cassidy became the hottest teen idol in the country. The show itself also spawned a number of records and/or songs, performed by David and Shirley. That same year, "I Think I Love You", reached #1 on the Billboards Top 100 Musical Charts.

Shirley Jones's friendship with David Cassidy's family began in the mid-to-late 1950s, when David was just 6, after he learned about his father's divorce from his mother Evelyn Ward, before remarrying Shirley. Upon David's first meeting with Shirley before co-starring with her on The Partridge Family, he said, "The day he tells me that they're divorced, he tells me, 'We're remarried, and let me introduce you to my new wife.' He was thrilled her first movie, Oklahoma! (1955), had come out; and my dad took me to see it --- I just see her, and I go, uh-oh, it doesn't really quite register with me, 'cause I'm in total shock, because I wanted to hate her, but, the instant that I met her, I got the essence of her. She's a very warm open, sweet good human being. She couldn't have thought of me in the coldness of the ice, anymore than she did." Shirley was shocked to hear her real-life stepson was going to audition for the role of Keith Partridge. David said, "At the auditions, they introduced me to the lead actress (Shirley Jones), cause they had no idea, they had no idea. So I said, 'What are you doing here?' She looked at me and said, 'What are you doing here?' And I said, 'Well, I'm leading for the lead guy.' I said, 'What are you doing here?' She said, 'I'm the mother!'" Cassidy discussed his relationship with his stepmother on the show: "She wasn't my mother, and I can be very open, and we can speak, and became very close friends for me. She was a very good role model for me, watching the way, you know, she dealt with people on the set, and watching people revere her." After the show's cancellation, Cassidy remained very close to his half-brothers and the rest of his Partridge Family castmates, especially Shirley. Cassidy appeared on many shows alongside his stepmother, in addition to A&E Biography, such as TV Land Confidential, The Today Show, one of the presenters of his stepmother's Intimate Portrait on Lifetime Television, and the defunct reality show, In Search of the Partridge Family, where he served as co-executive producer. The rest of the cast also celebrated the 25th, 30th and the 35th anniversary of The Partridge Family (although Cassidy was unavailable to attend the 25th Anniversary in 1995, due to other commitments). In addition, Jack Cassidy's death in 1976, drew Jones and Cassidy closer, as Shirley's three children and stepson mourned their father.

Shirley and other projects

Shirley tried her hand at television for the second time starring in Shirley, but failed to win ratings. Jones also played the "older woman" girlfriend of Drew Carey's character in several episodes of The Drew Carey Show in 1988-1989.

She also won fans in the memorable dramatic project, There Were Times, Dear, in which she played a loyal wife, whose husband is dying of Alzheimer's Disease; she was nominated for an Emmy for this work.

In February 1986 Shirley Jones unveiled her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Vine Street just around the corner from Hollywood Boulevard.

Jones had a stellar turn in a rare revival of Noel Coward's operetta Bitter Sweet at the Long Beach Civic Light Opera in 1983. In 2004, Shirley returned to Broadway in a revival of 42nd Street, portraying diva "Dorothy Brock", opposite her son Patrick Cassidy, the first time a mother and son were known to star together on Broadway. In July 2005, Shirley revisited the musical Carousel onstage in Massachusetts portraying "Cousin Nettie". Shirley continues to appear in venues nationwide, in concert and in speaking engagements.

In July 2006, Jones received an Emmy nomination for her supporting performance in the TV film Hidden Places. Shirley was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild award for the same film, but lost to Helen Mirren for Elizabeth I. She also appeared in 2006's Grandma's Boy, produced by Adam Sandler, as a nymphomaniac senior citizen.

On November 16, 2007, Shirley Jones took stage at the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular concert at the Ford Center celebrating Oklahoma's 100th birthday. Jones sang the songs "Oklahoma!" and "People Will Say We're In Love" from the musical Oklahoma!.

In early 2008, it was announced that Shirley would play Colleen Brady on the long-running NBC soap opera Days of Our Lives.

On August 25th, UK label Stage Door Records will release the retrospective collection - 'Shirley Jones - Then & Now' featuring 24 songs from Jones' musical career including songs from the timeless films 'Oklahoma!', 'Carousel' and 'April Love'. The album also features new recordings such as 'Beauty And The Beast', 'Memory' and a sentimental tribute to 'The Music Man'.

Personal life

Jones married actor Jack Cassidy on August 5, 1956, with whom she had three sons, Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan. David Cassidy, Jack's only child from his first marriage to actress Evelyn Ward, became her stepson. Divorcing Cassidy in 1974, she later married comic/actor Marty Ingels on November 13, 1977. Despite drastically different personalities and several separations (she filed, then withdrew, a divorce petition in 2002), they remain married.

Jones's father, Paul, underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1958 but died within days.

Jones is a registered Republican who appeared at the 1988 Republican Convention and sang the National Anthem. She also sang at the 2003 lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., at President George W. Bush's request.

Jones and her son Shaun Cassidy are the only mother and son to each have a song reach number one on the Billboard Charts. Jones hit #1 with The Partridges "I Think I Love You" in 1970 (sung with stepson David Cassidy). Shaun followed that in 1977 with "Da Do Ron Ron."

On the evening of December 11, 1976, after Jones had refused an offer of reconciliation from Jack Cassidy, she received news that her ex-husband's penthouse apartment was in flames. Apparently, the fire started from his lit cigarette while he was falling asleep on the couch. The next morning, the firefighters found Cassidy's dead body inside.

In 1979, the National Enquirer ran a story about Jones's consumption of alcoholic beverages and her husband's erratic behavior. Together they filed a $20 million lawsuit that dragged on until 1984 when the Enquirer agreed to a retraction and an out of court settlement.

Jones and Ingels wrote a 1989 autobiography, based on their quirky relationship/marriage.


Shirley: "It's astonishing to see how many of these Hollywood big-wigs are trying to undermine President Bush." (Source:

Shirley: "My policy is just one step at a time." (Source: A&

Shirley on her on- and off-screen chemistry with David Cassidy who played Keith Partridge: "He came to respect me, he loved me, and vice-versa. We had our moments, because David had some disciplinary problems. He would show up late for work on Mondays, and keep the whole crew waiting, you know, for hours, and not to my liking or anybody else's. So, that had to be addressed and it was, until we got to know each other." (Source: A&

Shirley on how winning an Oscar changed her life: "Some people pooh-pooh the Oscar. My career had been over because they weren't making musicals anymore. At the time, it was thought that if you were a singer you couldn't act." (Source:

Shirley on The Partridge Family: "The show killed my movie career." (Source:

Shirley on why she withdrew her divorce petition against Marty Ingels: "You don't throw away 27 years. You just don't." (Source:

Shirley after divorcing Jack Cassidy that Sean became the man of the house: "It was a horrendous time, when I was going through the divorce with Jack, think I leaned on, certainly Sean, because he was the oldest and perhaps, you know, it wasn't right to do so, but he was the oldest and he accepted the responsibility, because he wasn't oh so." (Source: A&

Shirley on the end of her marriage to Jack Cassidy: "Jack had a breakdown. A real mental breakdown. He was manic depressive. But he was the one that wanted the divorce. He thought it was better for me and the kids. I never did. I would have hung in there. I felt in many ways he was acting strangely and doing strange things and he felt perhaps it was better for all of us." (Source:

Shirley on the death of Jack Cassidy: "He was a very, very strong force in my life. As a matter of fact, I never fell out of love with a man." (Source: A&

Shirley if her voice was best enough for herself to participate in South Pacific: "I sang for their casting director, and he asked 'What I've done, where I've been?!' I said, 'Nothing, I've been there a week, and he couldn't believe it!' He said, 'Would you mind waiting for a little while?' He said, 'I would like Mr. Rodgers to hear you, himself.'" (Source: A&

Shirley on the cancellation of The Partridge Family: "I was very worried about David, because as I said, he'd showed up on a Monday with no sleep, becoming terrified with the fans, becoming terrified with the press, wanting to hide his trailer, every minute." (Source: A&

Shirley on Jack's outrageous behavior, in his own way: "Drinking was a part of his life, partying was a part of his life, other women were a big part of his life, other women were a big part of his life, but everything that he did, I thought I was right, I never questioned him!" (Source: A&



  • Christmas Is Here Again (2008) (voice)

Television work

  • Out of the Blue (1968) (unsold pilot)
  • Silent Night, Lonely Night (1969)
  • The Partridge Family (1970-1974)
  • The Girls of Huntington House (1973)
  • The Family Nobody Wanted (1975)
  • Winner Take All (1975)
  • The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975)
  • Yesterday's Child (1977)
  • Evening in Byzantium (1978)
  • Who'll Save Our Children? (1978)
  • A Last Cry for Help (1979)

Stage work


External links

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