Shirley Mae Jones (born March 31, 1934) is an American singer and actress of stage, film and television. She starred as wholesome characters in a number of well-known musical films, such as Oklahoma! (1955), Carousel (1956), and The Music Man (1962). She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing a prostitute in Elmer Gantry (1960). She is probably best known to 1970s television audiences as Shirley Partridge, the widowed mother of five children in the situation-comedy television series, The Partridge Family (1970–1974), co-starring her real-life stepson David Cassidy, son of Jack Cassidy. 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. 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, Pennsylvania, 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 theatre. In New York City, New York, she was convinced to sing for a Broadway agent, Gus Sherman. Sherman was pleased to put Jones under contract, and with her parents’ approval, she resettled in New York City and gave herself one year to become a Broadway performer. She only had $100 in her pocket. If she did not 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 Jones. 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. Jones impressed Rodgers and Hammerstein with her musically trained voice and she was cast as the female lead in the film adaptation of their hit musical Oklahoma! in 1955. Other film musicals quickly followed, including Carousel, April Love (1957) and The Music Man, in which she was often typecast as a wholesome, kind character. However, she won a 1960 Academy Award for her performance in Elmer Gantry portraying a woman corrupted by the title character played by Burt Lancaster. Her character becomes a prostitute who encounters her seducer years later and takes her revenge. She was reunited with Ron Howard (who had played a role in The Music Man) in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (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, including playing the title character in the Broadway musical Maggie Flynn in 1968.
“People Will Say We’re In Love”
In 1970, after her film roles dwindled, and after turning down the role of Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, which role ultimately went to Florence Henderson, Jones was more than happy to be the producers’ first choice to audition for the lead role of Shirley Partridge in The Partridge Family, an ABC sitcom based on the real-life musical family The Cowsills. The series focused on a young widowed mother whose five children form a pop-rock group after the entire family painted its signature bus to travel. She was convinced that the combination of music and comedy would be a surefire hit. Jones realized, however, that:
|“||The problem with Partridge—though it was great for me and gave me an opportunity to stay home and raise my kids—when my agents came to me and presented it to me, they said if you do a series and it becomes a hit show, you will be that character for the rest of your life and your movie career will go into the toilet, which is what happened. But I have no regrets.||”|
During its first season, it became a hit and was screened in over 70 countries. Within months, Jones and her co-stars were pop culture television icons. Her real-life twenty-year-old stepson David Cassidy, who was an unknown actor at the time, played Shirley Partridge’s eldest son, Keith, and became the hottest teen idol in the country. The show itself also spawned a number of records and songs performed by David and Shirley. That same year, “I Think I Love You” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 music chart.
While enjoying playing Shirley Partridge, Jones was in a real-life crisis with her emotionally troubled husband. This sitcom also starred a lot of unknown actors and actresses, such as ex-model Susan Dey as the eldest daughter and second child, Laurie; future radio personality Danny Bonaduce as sarcastic son Danny; and future bookstore manager Suzanne Crough as the youngest child, Tracy. Jeremy Gelbwaks played the original Chris Partridge but 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.
“Many A New Day” from Oklahoma
By 1974, the ratings had sunk low, David Cassidy finally had had enough of playing Keith Partridge, and one of his teenage fans had died of heart failure from injuries sustained while attending one of his concerts. The Partridge Family was dropped from the prime-time lineup after four seasons and 96 episodes. Though Jones was outraged about the series’ cancellation, she held the show together. In fact, it was one of six series to be cancelled that 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.
“Till There Was You” from The Music Man
Shirley Jones’s friendship with David Cassidy’s family began in the mid to late 1950s, when David was just six, after he learned about his father’s divorce from his mother Evelyn Ward. 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 when 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 any more 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 reading 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 we became very close friends. 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 cast mates, especially Shirley.
One on One with Shirley Jones
Cassidy appeared on many shows alongside his stepmother, including A&E Biography, TV Land Confidential, and The Today Show, and he was 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 anniversaries of The Partridge Family (although Cassidy was unavailable to attend the 25th anniversary in 1995 owing 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.
In 1979, Jones tried her hand at television for the second time starring in Shirley which, like, The Partridge Family, fetaured a family headed by a widowed mother, but failed to win ratings, and was canceled toward the middle of the season. Jones also played the “older woman” girlfriend of Drew Carey’s character in several episodes of The Drew Carey Show.
Shirley Jones on the Danny Thomas Show singing, “It Might As Well Be Spring” from the musical State Fair.
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 Award 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, Jones revisited the musical Carousel onstage in Massachusetts portraying “Cousin Nettie”. She continues to appear in venues nationwide, in concerts and in speaking engagements.
In July 2006, Jones received another Emmy Award nomination for her supporting performance in the television 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 Grandma’s Boy (2006), produced by Adam Sandler, as a nymphomaniac senior citizen.
On November 16, 2007, she took the stage at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the Oklahoma Centennial Spectacular concert which celebrated the state’s 100th birthday. Jones sang the songs “Oklahoma!” and “People Will Say We’re In Love” from the musical Oklahoma!.
On August 25,[when?] U.K. label Stage Door Records will release the retrospective collection Shirley Jones — Then & Now featuring twenty-four songs from Jones’s musical career, including songs from the films Oklahoma!, Carousel and April Love. The album also features new recordings of songs including “Beauty and the Beast“, “Memory” and a sentimental tribute to The Music Man.
1956 from Carousel, “If I Loved You”
On August 5, 1956, Jones married the actor Jack Cassidy, 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 remained married.
She was best friends with her late co-star Gordon MacRae and his ex-wife Sheila, and he was the godfather of her first son, Shaun Cassidy. She also admitted that she had a crush on Gordon when she was young and was starstruck when she worked opposite him on Oklahoma!. She is also the one who convinced MacRae to take the part as Billy Bigelow in Carousel when Frank Sinatra, who had originally been cast, suddenly dropped out during the first days of filming. According to Jones, Sinatra left because he’d been outraged that the director asked for an additional take on a scene, shouting “Am I being paid twice for this??”
The Partridge Family, “Somebody Wants To Love You”
Her 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 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 second husband’s erratic behavior. Together they filed a $20 million lawsuit that dragged on until 1984 when the tabloid agreed to a retraction and an out-of-court settlement.
Jones and Ingels wrote an autobiography based on their quirky relationship/marriage, Shirley & Marty: An Unlikely Love Story (William Morrow and Company, 1990, co-written with Mickey Herskowitz, ISBN 0-688-08457-5).
Recent Interview in London – 2010
Jones is the grandmother of eight: Caitlin, Jake, Juliet, Caleb, Roan, and Lila Cassidy, from son Shaun Cassidy, and Cole and Jack, from son Patrick Cassidy. She’s also the stepgrandmother of two: Katie and Beau Cassidy, from stepson and former Partridge Family co-star, David Cassidy.
Quick Bio Facts:
Shirley Jones AKA Shirley Mae Jones
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Party Affiliation: Republican
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Mom of The Partridge Family
Shirley Jones was raised in Pennsylvania, where her parents ran the Jones Brewery, founded by her grandfather (the brewery still produces Stoney’s Beer). Named after Shirley Temple, Jones was in the church choir at the age of six, and began taking piano lessons shortly after that. Her piano teacher recognized her musical talents, urged the girl to take music seriously, and recommended that her parents get her professional singing lessons. Jones appeared in school plays, and won the Miss Pittsburgh beauty pageant the same year she finished high school, 1952. When she decided to move to New York, her parents gave her $160 for the trip. She promised to return when the money ran low, but it never did. She auditioned as a replacement chorus girl for the original Broadway run of South Pacific, but the voice lessons paid off when she sang, and she was immediately cast in a more substantial part.
On stage, she starred in Show Boat, The Sound of Music, and The King and I, among many other roles. On film, she starred in the musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel, both with Gordon MacRae, and The Music Man with Robert Preston. She won an Oscar in 1960, playing a prostitute in Elmer Gantry with Burt Lancaster. She met actor Jack Cassidy in a 1950s stage production of Oklahoma!, and they soon married. He became familiar to America as a perennial TV “guest star,” and in the early 1970s his son David co-starred with Jones in The Partridge Family. The success of that sitcom is said to have driven Jack to drink, and Jones divorced him in the mid-1970s.
The Partridge Family was inspired by the success of The Cowsills, a real-life family that made squeaky-clean “safe” rock’n’roll. Jones and her stepson David, playing heartthrob Keith Partridge, actually sang on the Partridge Family’s songs, but everything else about the group’s music was manufactured by the Wrecking Crew, a group of Los Angeles session musicians that performed The Monkees‘ early hits. David Cassidy, only sixteen years younger than Jones, has admitted to a longtime crush on his stepmother: “I always wanted to take that walk down Dad’s Memory Lane.”
In 1977, Jones married comedian Marty Ingels, and despite several brief separations they remain married today. They sued National Enquirer over their false headline, “Husband’s bizarre behavior driving Shirley Jones to drink”. The case took eight years to reach a conclusion, and actually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Jones eventually received an apology and an undisclosed payment from the tabloid.
Her 1964 comedy Bedtime Story with Marlon Brando and David Niven was remade in 1988, as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin, Michael Caine, and Glenne Headly in Jones’ role. A longtime outspoken Republican, she sang the national anthem at the GOP’s 1988 Convention. In 2008 she joined the cast of the soap opera Days of Our Lives.
Father: Paul Jones (brewer)
Mother: Marjorie Williams (homemaker)
Husband: Jack Cassidy (actor, m. 5-Aug-1956, div. 1974, d. 1976, three sons)
Son: David Cassidy (actor, b. 12-Apr-1950, stepson from Jack Cassidy’s first marriage)
Son: Shaun Cassidy (actor, b. 27-Sep-1958)
Son: Patrick Cassidy (actor, b. 4-Jan-1962)
Son: Ryan Cassidy (set decorator, b. 23-Feb-1966)
Husband: Marty Ingels (comedian, m. 13-Nov-1977)
High School: South Huntingdon High School, Ruffs Dale, PA (1952)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Hidden Places (28-Jan-2006)
Grandma’s Boy (6-Jan-2006)
Raising Genius (10-Mar-2004)
Manna From Heaven (17-Jan-2003)
Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth (17-Oct-2000)
Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (18-May-1979)
Evening in Byzantium (14-Aug-1978)
The Cheyenne Social Club (12-Jun-1970)
The Happy Ending (21-Dec-1969)
Silent Night, Lonely Night (16-Dec-1969)
The Secret of My Success (29-Sep-1965)
Bedtime Story (10-Jun-1964)
Dark Purpose (5-Feb-1964)
A Ticklish Affair (18-Aug-1963)
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (6-Mar-1963)
The Music Man (19-Jun-1962)
Two Rode Together (26-Jul-1961)
Elmer Gantry (7-Jul-1960)
Never Steal Anything Small (11-Feb-1959)
April Love (27-Nov-1957)
Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, imdb.com, nndb.com