Happy Birthday Shirley MacLaine: Celebrating the Hollywood Icon’s Best Moments

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Shirley MacLaine deserves a large, flavorful and scrumptious cake to celebrate her 87th birthday. She defines accomplishment, doesn’t she?

So here’s our version of a Shirley MacLaine birthday. We’re going to revel in her best moments.

Since it’s Academy Awards weekend, let’s celebrate some of Shirley MacLaine at the Oscars. She was nominated six times, winning one for Terms of Endearment. She was Aurora Greenway, the bossy, opinionated, old-money Texan who wants to manipulate the life of her daughter, Emma. Aurora has a relationship with a former astronaut, played by Jack Nicholson. But she flies to Nebraska to be by Emma’s side when her daughter is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Aurora brings down holy hell on Flap, her son-in-law. And the medical staff at the hospital.

The movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, winning five of them.

Shirley MacLaine Enjoyed Near Immediate Movie Success

Shirley MacLaine, known to some as Warren Beatty’s big sister, kicked off her career in a big way. Her first big role was in The Trouble with Harry, a black comedy from Alfred Hitchcock. This was back in 1955. MacLaine won the Golden Globe for new actress of the year.

Within four years, MacLaine had her first Academy Awards nomination for the movie Some Came Running. She starred alongside the likes of singing legends Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

In 1960, MacLaine had a starring role opposite Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, which won the Academy Award for best movie. Here’s a fun fact. The Apartment was the last black-and-white movie to win an Oscar until 2012. That’s when The Artist won the Academy Award. Part of its selling point was being black and white.

Shirley MacLaine, who played a cute a quirky elevator operator in The Apartment, picked up her second Oscar nod.

In Her Second Movie with Jack Lemmon, MacLaine Played a Parisian Hooker

MacLaine dazzled in Irma La Douce in 1963. She played a funny prostitute in Paris. Jack Lemmon again was her co-star. And again, she picked up an Oscar nomination. A number of actresses were considered for the starring role. MacLaine won the role over Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot.

Irma La Douce, lobbycard, from left: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, 1963. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

Shirley MacLaine next was nominated for Best Actress in 1978. That was for the Turning Point. This time, she played a retired ballerina.

And, another favorite role came in the movie Steel Magnolias, the film that also featured the star power of Dolly Parton, Sally Fields and Julia Roberts.

MacLaine wrote an autobiography in 2011 called I’m Over All That.  In the book, MacLaine wrote about reincarnation.

“Probably one of the reasons why reincarnation makes sense to me is because I understand how each one of us is so many people,” Shirley MacLaine wrote. “When we open up and allow our soul’s memory to emerge and express itself, we can be amazed at the talent for multiple personalities we each have. I don’t mean multiple personalities in the sense of a psychological disorder.

“I mean each of us has had multiple experiences in past lifetimes that equip our souls with memories and intuitions that can’t be explained any other way. How did I know and recognize streets and temples when I first went to India? Why did I find myself speaking Portuguese when I was in Brazil? Each human being can point to any number of similar experiences, specific moments that make them wonder why and how they know what they know.”

MacLaine Made Fun of Herself At Oscars

So because of the reception of the book, MacLaine often found herself the butt of reincarnation jokes. And like the pro she is, she quipped at the 2016 Academy Awards: “That’s the nicest reception I’ve had in 250,000 years.”

MacLaine got a late-career bump when she guest-starred in three episodes of Downton Abbey. She played an American dowager.

So let’s all say Happy Birthday to the beautiful, quirky, fabulously talented Shirley MacLaine.

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