Pittsburgh Music Story‎ > ‎Pop‎ > ‎

Shirley Jones

Academy Award Winning Star of Movie Musicals and the Partridge Family

Shirley Jones, a singer and actress, has starred on Broadway, film, and television. Her voice was heard in the leading roles in the classic film musicals of Oklahoma, Carousel, and the Music Man.  She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Elmer Gantry in 1960.  She has appeared in 34 movies.  On television she starred as the singing mother of the Partridge Family with her stepson David Cassidy.  Shirley played the "older woman" girlfriend of Drew Carey's in several episodes of The Drew Carey Show.  She has recorded 6 solo albums including "Show Tunes" in 1995 and "Then and Now" in 2008.  Shirley also recorded several albums with Jack Cassidy and the Partridge Family.  The Partridge Family song  "I Think I Love You" made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Shirley was the first woman to win an Oscar and have a No. 1 hit record..   

Hometown Smithton

Shirley Mae Jones was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania in 1934, and later moved to the 800 population town of Smithton Pa where her father owned the Jones Brewing Company, makers of Stoney's Beer. Shirley began signing almost as soon as she could speak.  She began performing at the age of six in the Methodist Church Choir.  Beginning at age 12 Shirley studied with singing teacher Mary Reese Wilson of Charlerio for three years.  She then took voice lessons from Ralph Lewando in Pittsburgh for four years.  In high school she was the head drum majorette, the May Queen, and worked as a photographer's model..  

Training at the Pittsburgh Playhouse

After graduating from South Huntingdon High School in 1951, she won the 1952 Miss Pittsburgh Pageant.  Winning the first runner up in the Miss Pennsylvania Pageant, she was awarded a two-year scholarship to the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Shirley studied acting and performed in plays and musicals at the Pittsburgh Playhouse,  She appeared in Playhouse shows with her friend Josie Casey. Shirley made her debut with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, appearing in “Lady in the Dark” at Pitt Stadium in 1953.  Her plans were to attend veterinary school in Philadelphia.  She decided to try out for Broadway in the summer before she went to collage in the fall.

Broadway Stardom

At age 18 Shirley Jones left the Pittsburgh Playhouse to try her luck on Broadway.  In the summer of 1953 her voice teacher sent her to audition with Broadway agent, Gus Sherman. Sherman signed her as a client and sent her to audition for John Fearnley the casting director for the Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Excited with Shirley’s trained voice he ran across the street to fetch Richard Rodgers from a rehearsal.  Rodgers called Oscar Hammerstein at home. They put her under a personal contract, the only time the do so for any singer.  They started her out with small roles on Broadway at age 18 in South Pacific and Me and Julie.  She played one the nurses in South Pacific for five months and then joined the Chorus of "Me and Julie" and went to to play the second lead.

Movie Stardom and Oscar Winner

Rodgers and Hammerstein cast Shirley the leading lady in the film version of their musical Oklahoma! in 1955. Shirley beat out several major Hollywood stars to win the part.  She also sang the lead roles in Rodger and Hmaerstein's Carousel (1956), April Love (1957), and The Music Man (1962).  She went to Europe touring with co-star Jack Cassidy in Oklahoma.  She married Jack Cassidy at age 20 in 1956. She and Jack put an act together to play clubs across the U.S.   In 1960 she won an Academy Award for her role as a prostitute in Elmer Gantry.  She played the Marian the Librarian opposite Robert Preston in the movie version of “The Music Man” in 1962.   Shirley also appeared in the films "The Happy Ending and", "The Secret of My Success", and "The Courtship of Eddie's Father".   

Shirley returned to Broadway in 1968 appearing in the musical Maggie Flynn.  In 1986 she was nominated for an Emmy award for her role in the drama "There Were Times, Dear".

Partridge Family and Television Career

In the 1970’s, after turning down the role of Carol Brady, Shirley Jones appeared as the mother of the singing group The Partridge Family.  They scored hits with the songs "Cherish," "I Think I Love You" and "Come On, Get Happy."  Since The Partridge Family ended in 1974 she continued to appear on many television shows including Murder She Wrote, The Love Boat,  Melrose Place, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, That 70's Show, Drew Carey, Cougar Town, and Hot in Cleveland.  She was nominated for three Emmy Awards for "Silent Night, Lonely Night" (1969), "There Were Times, Dear" (1986), and "Hidden Places (2006).

Shirley Jones was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Shirley Jones Song Book
It Might as Well be Spring
Miss Pittsburgh 1952

 
Shirley with Her Father & Uncle 1955 Smithon, Pa.

The Partridge Family