Throwback Thursday: Shirley MacLaine’s Flair for the Dramatic

From her parents, one a former actress and the other a professor of psychology and philosophy, Shirley MacLaine inherited a flair for the dramatic and a spiritual and intellectual curiosity that would set her apart from her peers. She was dancing at age two and performing by four years old. She was in Broadway productions for four years before, in 1954, she was offered her first movie contract. She first appeared on the big screen in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, and only four years later she would earn her first Oscar nomination, the first of a several before finally winning the award for Best Actress for her role in Terms of Endearment in 1983.

MacLaine has to her credit five Golden Globes, an Emmy, and numerous other awards. She has also published several best-selling books, perhaps most notably Out on a Limb, which eventually became a made-for-TV movie and discusses her beliefs and the concept of reincarnation. These beliefs have evolved over time, influenced by her experiences, and although somewhat controversial, her bold, outspoken nature has gained her a loyal following. Sharing a publisher with Stephen Hawking, she explains has developed a friendship with the physicist and cosmologist, with whom she has long discussions on the nature of God. Even critics cannot deny her sharp wit and intelligence.

As Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias

Stand-out performances in Madame Souzatzka, Steel Magnolias, and Postcards from the Edge have further solidified her status an entertainment giant. And the veteran actress’s career is clearly not slowing down. She has recently appeared in the UK’s mega-hit television series Downton Abbey as Martha Levinson and also June Dolloway of Glee. Recent films include Bernie (2011), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and Elsa & Fred (2014), with more projects in the works.

As Martha Levinson in her recurring role on Downton Abbey

About Leigh Johnson

Leigh joined the team at I On The Scene after graduating with degrees in economics and political science from the University of Tennessee. She is currently writing a collection of humorous essays and preparing for the launch of Inkblot Design Studio, which will feature the photography and mixed media works of local artists as well as her own. Her hobbies include dancing Brazilian Zouk and traveling with friends.​ Read more from this author.