Shirley MacLaine (born April 24, 1934) is an American film and theater actress, dancer, activist, and author, well-known for her beliefs in new age spirituality and reincarnation. She has written a large number of autobiographical works, many dealing with her spiritual beliefs as well as her Hollywood career. In 1983, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Terms of Endearment.
Named after Shirley Temple, MacLaine was born Shirley MacLean Beaty 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 Nova Scotia-born drama teacher; her grandparents were also teachers. Through her mother she is descended from the Scottish Clan Maclean. The family was devoutly Baptist. MacLaine's father moved the family from Richmond to Norfolk, and then to Arlington, Virginia, while she was still a child, then to Waverley, between 1932 and 1936, eventually taking a position at Arlington's Jefferson Middle School. The Beaty family lived in a house in the Western part of the county off Wilson Boulevard where it was said that Shirley and brother, Warren were known around their neighborhood as troublemakers in their pre-adolescent days.
Her early childhood dream was to be a ballerina. Strongly motivated by ballet throughout her youth, she never missed a class. When a piece was performed, she would play the boy's role, being the tallest participant. She was so determined and so set on being a dancer that her recurring childhood nightmare was that she missed the bus to class. She finally landed a solid female role in a ballet, the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella; but, while warming up backstage, she snapped her ankle. Despite the injury, she remained determined to make it through the show. She simply tied the ankle ribbon on her toe shoes extra tight and went "on with the show". After it was over, she called for an ambulance.
Eventually, MacLaine decided that professional ballet wasn't for her. She said that she did not really have the right body type and that she did not want to starve herself. Also, she didn't have "beautifully constructed" feet (high arches and insteps). Nor was she of "exquisite beauty". After leaving ballet, MacLaine turned to acting. She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad and acted in the school's productions. The summer before her senior year, she was in New York to try acting on Broadway with some success. After she graduated, she returned and within a year she achieved her goal of becoming a star when she became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; Haney broke her ankle, and MacLaine replaced her. A few months after, with Haney still out of commission, film producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience, took note of MacLaine, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures. She would later sue Wallis over a contractual dispute, a suit that is credited with having ended the old-style studio system of actor management
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