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MacLaine, Shirley

Category: Performer

 

Shirley MacLaine (born Shirley MacLean Beaty; April 24, 1934) is an American film, television and theatre actress, singer, dancer, activist and author. Her books have sold in the millions and we could have equally well placed her in the section on writers, as her books are extremely readable, well paced and enjoyable, as well as at times being funny.

An Academy Award winner, MacLaine received the 40th AFI Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 2012, and received the Kennedy Center Honors for her lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in 2013. In 1978, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. 

In 1999, she was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.  In 2011, the government of France made her a Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.

A six-time Academy Award nominee, MacLaine received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature for The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975), and Best Actress nominations for Some Came Running (1958), The Apartment (1960), Irma la Douce (1963), and The Turning Point (1977), before winning Best Actress for Terms of Endearment (1983). She twice won the BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actress, for Ask Any Girl (1959), and The Apartment (1960); and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy-Variety or Music Special for the 1976 TV special, Gypsy In My Soul. She has also won five competitive Golden Globe Awards and received the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 1998 ceremony.

On spirituality and metaphysics

 

Shirley developed a strong interest in spirituality and metaphysics, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after being convinced of their validity during a trip to Peru, described in her book Out on a Limb.  Further proofs followed and were described in Dancing in the Light.  She was no easy gullible convert, and initially rejected the whole process and the things she was experiencing as fantasy....

Out on a Limb – Shirley MacLaine
Jesus, I thought, hippy-dippy jargon. He's going to use phrases that are simply not part of my realistic vocabulary. And as much as I might feel drawn to what he is saying, it is going to put me off because it's not part of my philosophic or intellectual lexicon of understanding. But then, I thought, my words and phrases and ideas have been limited to my own conceptions, my own frames of reference. Don't get bugged by words. Keep the mind open.

 But the experiences kept on coming until she came to the conclusion that her destiny was to use her position of ‘fame’ and celebrity status to write about the experiences. 

It took great courage to do so, as she risked being thought so kooky that her film career might have suffered.  But her bravery has paid off, as not only have her books helped to reveal the far more wide-spread occurrence of spiritual experience than the average materialist would have you believe, but she has also helped take away the label of kooky from these people.  There is no more kookiness about the spiritual and at this moment there are physicists scouring our site for the unusual, in order to explain previously inexplicable problems.  The 'occult' has become the subject of scientific interest. 

 

So Shirley has done a great number of people a great service by documenting and actually involving herself in this area.   She has undertaken such forms of spiritual exploration as walking the Way of St. James, working with the healer Chris Griscom, and practicing Transcendental Meditation.

She also has an interest in UFOs - not an area we pursue on this site as they are not ‘supernatural’ or spiritual.  But in her book Sage-ing While Age-ing (2007), she described alien encounters and witnessing a Washington, D.C. UFO incident in the 1950s.  New Mexico is a well known centre for UFO sitings and in the April 2011 edition of the Oprah show, Shirley stated that she and her neighbour had observed numerous UFO incidents at her New Mexico ranch.

She is a wise lady.  And she has had a great number of spiritual experiences herself.

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

with her daughter

Let's have some deep and probing investigative reporting on why so many people are addicted to drugs.

If we did that I think we'd be into an investigation of the contemporary human spirit, of depression, of pointlessness, of spiritual poverty, …..

Let's investigate who we really are in relation to our beliefs, because if we don't we are going to be forever manipulated by the real ruling elite in this world-the international banking community.

In effect, "they" understand the real polarities governing our lives are not Good versus Evil, but rather Materialism versus Spirit.

 Life

Annette Bening, Shirley MacLaine, Warren Beatty and Former Senator George
McGovern backstage during the 36th AFI Life Achievement

Shirley MacLean Beaty was born on April 24, 1934, in Richmond, Virginia.

Her father, Ira Owens Beaty, was a professor of psychology, public school administrator, and real estate agent, and her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (née MacLean), was a drama teacher, originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.

MacLaine's younger brother is the actor, writer and director Warren Beatty; he changed the spelling of his surname when he became an actor.

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

My mother was a Canadian with a decidedly royalist reflex. By that I mean that she revered the British royal family to such an extent that my father was often moved to make fun of her for her devotion. She always bristled, and on it went. Mother was a very loving and sensitive person, but I would have to say that about most things she was conservative. I don't think she ever thought that much about a label for herself.

 

Her father (my grandfather, whom I never knew) was an accomplished brain surgeon in Canada and a 33rd Degree Mason.
Mother never told me about his Masonic ties; I learned about them by reading his obituary in some old Canadian newspaper clippings she had saved. To be a 33rd Degree Mason is no small accomplishment. Simply put, he was well versed in metaphysics and in keeping secrets. Mother certainly inherited his gift for the latter .

………Many of our Founding Fathers were transcendentalists and 33rd Degree Masons. They were our original politicians, yet none of the people in politics these days seem to know the origins of our democracy. They spoke of having a vision of enlightenment for the new nation. They fashioned the Great Seal out of sacred geometry because they were Masons. The city of Washington was modelled along sacred geometric lines. We have metaphysical roots underpinning our national identity. Freemasons, at the most basic level, believed in the fundamental metaphysics of the Enlightenment. They believed that cosmic truths could be applied to creating harmony in a new society. They believed people could be self-governing and self-correcting. They warned against being ignorant of ignorance. They cautioned us against losing the foundations of our spiritual identity.

 

 

As a toddler Shirley had weak ankles and would fall over with the slightest misstep.  She also suffered from asthma.  We have an observation describing how her asthma was cured, and to help her with her ankles, her mother decided to enroll her in ballet class at the Washington School of Ballet at the age of three. ‘Strongly motivated by ballet, she never missed a class’.  Shirley was something of a tomboy in her childhood.  In classical romantic pieces like Romeo and Juliet and The Sleeping Beauty, she always played the boys' roles due to being the tallest in the group and the absence of males in the class.  MacLaine also played baseball in an all-boys team, holding the record for most home runs, which earned her the nickname "Powerhouse".  She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheer-leading squad and acted in school theatrical productions.

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

We were middle-class people, living a middle-class life in a neighborhood with a slight variation of architecture in each house. (Very slight.) We lived a "don't rock the boat" emotional life, which I believe ultimately made me into an eccentric because I felt I had to rebel. I attended school and dancing class every day of my life and babysat for extra money.

 

I didn’t learn much in school (except how to be a fast typist), but I did devote myself to becoming popular. Hence my football captain boyfriend and my time served as a cheerleader. I was a straight A student (so why didn't I learn anything?) and was a member of a sorority called the Sub Deb Club. My favorite subject was geometry. (I felt I somehow knew about pyramids and the inherent brilliance of the mathematics of shapes and forms.)
I rode in cars with boys, smoked only where I wouldn't get caught, and stayed a virgin even though the petting got hot and heavy.
My favorite book was called Heroes of Civilization (l still have it on my bookshelf), and my favorite piece of music was the "Pas de Deux" from The Nutcracker Suite. I was not particularly religious, even though it said Baptist on my birth certificate, and until I read Cosmic Memory by Rudolf Steiner, I hadn't contemplated such things as reincarnation and soul searching, but I always did love to think and discuss.
At our Sunday dinners, which consisted of meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, scalloped tomatoes, and chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce, Daddy used to ask me deep questions. I loved lingering over the food and discussing philosophy.
Once I asked him why everything one did had so much trouble attached to it. I was twelve. He was delighted because he had written a doctorate of philosophy and psychology at Johns Hopkins. He and my mother were teachers, even though I think they loved drama more (they were like vaudevillians together). Daddy and I talked philosophy for hours. He was comfortable with abstract thinking and stimulated me to come up with my own conclusions.

In other words her father taught how to learn and question.

 

Slowly realizing ballet's propensity to be too all-consuming, and ultimately limiting, she moved on to other forms of dancing, acting and musical theatre. 

The summer before her senior year, she went to New York City to try acting on Broadway, and had some success. After she graduated, she returned and within a year became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; in May 1954 Haney injured her ankle during a Wednesday matinee, and MacLaine replaced her.

A few months after, with Haney still injured, film producer Hal B. Wallis saw MacLaine's performance, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures.

By the time Shirley reached her 78th year, she could boast a 59-year career, a Best Actress Oscar, and the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award, ‘than which there is no higher accolade’. She had been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, William Wyler, Don Siegel and Richard Attenborough. She had acted with Frank Sinatra, Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood and Anne Bancroft. There is a star bearing her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. By 2017, she was still making films and had around 65 to her credit.

Wikipedia has some rather unpleasant quotes they have managed to find which show not everyone likes her.  But that is a good thing – it indicates honesty, integrity and the courage to state one’s opinions, without weaseling out afterwards when challenged.  Shirley is no push over either.  The Independent called her a ‘tough bunny’.  She has, for example, sued a studio. Offered a part by 20th Century Fox in a film that was cancelled, she was offered a lesser role in another film so that the studio wouldn't have to pay her off. She took Fox to the Supreme Court of California in 1970 – and won.

Partners and lovers

with Sachi Parker

MacLaine was married to businessman Steve Parker from 1954 until their divorce in 1982; they have a daughter, Sachi.

In April 2011, while promoting her book, I'm Over All That, she revealed to Oprah Winfrey that she had had an ‘open relationship with her husband’. 

This is somewhat understating the facts, as she has had a host of lovers and is friends with numerous men.  For reasons even she has difficulty explaining, she is especially attracted to politicians, although she has speculated that it is because they remind her of her father.  There is no problem explaining why they were attracted to Shirley, as she is one of those rare mixtures - an extremely pretty but very very bright  and articulate lady.

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

When I met Olof Palme (the prime minister of Sweden), he was emotional catnip for me because he was such a liberal, brilliant, yet emotionally repressed Swede. I loved his courage on behalf of all his liberal beliefs.

Palme

I met him at a U.N. anti-Vietnam War meeting in New York. He spoke so succinctly about the need to abolish war. He even spoke passionately about Democratic Socialism. I remember the moment I fell for him. We were in my New York apartment after the U.N. meeting. He was looking at the pictures on my New York Wall of Life. He smiled and I brushed the hair out of his eyes. He looked at my lips shyly, and I took him in my arms. That was it. We became lovers for years. We met in the Orient several times, and wherever his overseas goodwill trips took him. I took clandestine trips to Sweden and we kept the relationship private even though the Swedish press began to speculate why I was making so many private sojourns to Stockholm.

 Shirley supports and supported a number of 'good causes', and she met, as a consequence, some extremely influential movers and shakers......

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

Later, when I had a short fling with Pierre Trudeau, he knew about my relationship with Palme. All of the Democratic Socialists were heavily involved in the machinations of the U.N. They were "citizens of the world," which I found attractive. It appealed to my global liberalism and fit in with my belief in travel as the best source of true education.
Pierre was conversant with spiritual science, probably because he had had an education in the French Charismatic Catholic point of view. Miracles were part of his faith and his world view. Charismatic Catholics have no problem with metaphysics (that is, things beyond the physical).

but lest we forget there was also Andrew Peacock........

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

Andrew Peacock with Shirley MacLaine
in 1996

My longest-lasting relationship with a political leader was with Andrew Peacock (foreign minister of Australia and Australian ambassador to the United States).  I met him while I was playing in Australia (set up by a mutual friend from Princeton).

He was charming, funny, and a conservative. He used his voice like a snake oil salesman, which always made me laugh because, as I told him, I was also in the business of professional seduction through voice manipulation.  He took my comment good-naturedly........

We traveled in Canada, France, Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, England, the United States, and Mexico. Whenever I discussed my spiritual and metaphysical ideas with him, he listened, nodded, and more or less said, "It could be. Who knows?" On a UFO stakeout in Mexico near Mt. Popocatepetl, at one moment we thought we saw a craft and Andrew nearly "climbed the sky" to see if it was real.

 MacLaine with Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson in Terms Of Endearment

Again, whilst appearing on Oprah Winfrey's talk-show, Shirley told Oprah that she often fell for the leading men she worked with, although she wasn't attracted to Jack Lemmon, her co-star in The Apartment, because he was ‘too nice’, or Jack Nicholson, whom she starred with in Terms of Endearment, because he was ‘too dangerous’.  She named actor Robert Mitchum and French movie star Yves Montand as men that she had fallen for.  She also told Oprah, however, that she would now rather live with her dog, Terry. "I'd rather have a good, funny, loyal dog than a man".

MacLaine and Dame Maggie Smith in 'Downton Abbey'

 Later years

At the time of writing her book I'm Over all That, Shirley was in her late 70s.  She lived very happily with her lovely little dog Terry in Sante Fe.  She still taught seminars in spirituality and ran what she called her 'Spiritual Boot Camp' at her ranch.  She was even appearing in films in the same way Dame Maggie Smith was doing, and co-starred with her in Downton Abbey.  Her perhaps only source of sadness was her feeling for others, who lived a materialistic and loveless existence:

I'm Over All That and Other Confessions - Shirley MacLaine

 

The memories of our lives as spiritual beings seem to have vanished from our objective minds as we focus predominantly upon making money with the political and commercial circus. So many people feel ignorant of their purpose in life, ignorant of what lies beyond the mystery of death, ignorant of why we are here.
We know somehow that our souls are inextricably bound to the divine, but we can't seem to touch the connection. We are ignorant of our ignorance.
Intellectuals and hard evidence scientists have appointed themselves the final judges of all knowledge, both human and divine. Most of them believe that mystics are delusional and saints are religious neurotics. Most say God is a primitive superstition, that the universe is an accident with no particular harmony, that nothing exists after death, and certainly we don't live again.
People everywhere feel ground down by a soulless culture which heralds competition, money, and fame. They long for some kind of enlightenment and meaning within themselves. They are sensing that commercial materialism is actually impractical, that there is some other truth that is more satisfying and long-lasting.
People who once felt perfectly content living in the material world, now confronted with its sinking economics, are seeking happiness elsewhere but don't know where to look. We sense that it lies within the soul's understanding, but we get no reinforcement for the search. From experience, I know that those who attempt such a search are often ridiculed.
Most modern scientists and academics regard thinking as a purely intellectual process. Yet the power to speculate in more feeling and intuitive ways will be the saving grace of humanity. I believe the supreme source of power is the unfolding of the spirit within each of us, the God-force within.

All hail Shirley.

 

References

Books

  • MacLaine, Shirley (1970). Don't Fall Off the Mountain
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1972). McGovern: The Man and His Beliefs
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1975). You Can Get There from Here.
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1983). Out on a Limb
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1986). Dancing in the Light
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1987). It's All in the Playing
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1990). Going Within: A Guide to Inner Transformation
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1991). Dance While You Can
  • MacLaine, Shirley (1995). My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2000). The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit. (Published in Europe as: The Camino: A Pilgrimage of Courage.)
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2003). Out on a Leash: Exploring the Nature of Reality and Love
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2007). Sage-ing While Age-ing
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2011). I'm Over All That: And Other Confessions
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2013). What If...: A lifetime of questions, speculations, reasonable guesses, and a few things I know for sure
  • MacLaine, Shirley (2016). Above the Line: My Wild Oats Adventure

Films

MacLaine’s films include:

Alfred Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry (1955)

The Martin and Lewis film Artists and Models (also 1955)

Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

Hot Spell (1958)

The Sheepman (1958)

Some Came Running (1958)

The Matchmaker (1958)

Ask any girl (1959)

Career (1959)

Ocean 11 (1960)

Can can (1960)

The Apartment (1960), starring with Jack Lemmon directed by Billy Wilder.

The Children's Hour (1961) also starring Audrey Hepburn and James Garner

All in a night’s work (1961)

Two loves (1961)

Two for the Seesaw (1962)

My Geisha (1962)

Irma la Douce (1963), which reunited her with Wilder and Lemmon

What a Way to Go! (1964)

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)

Gambit (1966), with Michael Caine

Woman Times Seven (1967)

The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968)

Sweet Charity (1968)

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

Desperate Characters (1971)

The Possession of Joel Delaney (1972)

The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975)

The Turning Point (1977)

Being There (1979) with Peter Sellers

A Change of Seasons (1980) alongside Anthony Hopkins

Loving Couples (1980)

Terms of Endearment (1983), playing Debra Winger's mother

Cannonball Run II (1984)

Madame Sousatzka (1988).

Steel Magnolias with Sally Field and Julia Roberts

Postcards from the Edge (1990) with Meryl Streep

Waiting for the Light (1990)

Defending Your Life (1991

Used People (1992) with Jessica Tandy and Kathy Bates

Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (1993)

Guarding Tess (1994) with Nicolas Cage

The West Side Waltz (1995)

Mrs. Winterbourne (1996), with Ricki Lake and Brendan Fraser

The Evening Star (1996)

A Smile Like Yours (1997)

The Dress Code (2000)

These Old Broads (2001)

Salem Witch Trials (2002)

Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay (2002)

Carolina (2003)

Rumor Has It… (2005) with Kevin Costner and Jennifer Aniston

In Her Shoes (also 2005) with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette

Bewitched (2005)

Closing the Ring (2007) directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Christopher Plummer.

Coco Chanel (2008)

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (2008)

Valentine's Day (2010)

Bernie (2011)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

Elsa & Fred (2014)

Wild Oats (2016) with Jessica Lange

The Last Word (2017)

The Little Mermaid (2017)

Observations

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