"The Real Me"
Shirley Jones took part in the Fisher/Merlis
production on November 8, 1997.
Nostalgia Good TV is a family-oriented cable network with a limited subscriber base.
In part due to the many requests sent by Shirleys fans, the producers of the show
kindly granted permission to post this review on Shirleys web site.
A beautiful sound stage in Hollywood California was decorated
with a number of great photographs and memorabilia from Shirleys life and career.
Many of Shirleys friends, some from as far away as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, were invited to participate and we sat at tables and couches positioned around the set. Shirleys husband, Marty Ingels, and a select group of Shirleys oldest and dearest friends took part in the show and related funny and sometimes poignant stories about The Real Shirley.
She began the program by telling us all little bit about her early years and the fact that she was pretty much of a rebel in her youth. As she spoke, photographs of Shirley and her friends flashed across the screen. From a black and white home movie we watched some rare footage of Shirley as a carefree teenager just horsing around in her hometown of Smithton, Pennsylvania. Shirley spoke of how she has always enjoyed singing and was singing for her family by the age of four and in the church choir, by six.
Of course, no account of Shirley life would be complete without the wonderful story
of that first meeting with Richard Rodgers. After auditioning for him in the summer of 1953,
he asked Shirley to stay so that she could sing for his partner,
Oscar HammersteinWell, as many of you may know,
Shirley replied: "Of course, and what is your name?"
If you do not know this story, you really should read Shirley and Martys
Rodgers and Hammerstein thought Shirley would be perfect
for the role of Laurey in the movie Oklahoma!
However, they were not quite sure if she had enough
professional experience, so they gave Shirley a small part in the
chorus of the Broadway production South Pacific for 6 months,
and then the female lead in their musical Me and Juliet
that opened in Chicago. Within a year, they were confident
that Shirley was ready to be cast as their leading lady
in their first big screen production.
While clips from Oklahoma were shown on the monitor behind her,
Shirley spoke of what it was like to be a cast in a major motion picture at such a young age.
Shirley loved playing Laurey Williams and then Julie Jordan in Rodgers and Hammersteins
next musical motion picture Carousel.
The only problem was that she was quickly becoming typecast. Hollywood saw her
exclusively as a MUSICAL STAR and Shirley was having trouble being considered
for any substantial dramatic project. It was her portrayal of an alcoholic sunshine girl
in 1956 television production of "The Big Slide" opposite Red Skelton, for Playhouse 90
that was to become her vehicle that helped break the good-girl mold that Hollywood
had placed her in. Her performance was so moving and convincing that she got the attention
of actor Burt Lancaster, as well as an Emmy nomination.
Shirley explained that Burt was so taken with her performance, he insisted that she be cast
in Lancasters up coming Sinclair Lewis film. On the set of The Real Me,
Shirley proudly displayed her Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress as prostitute Lulu Bains
in the film Elmer Gantry. Photographs from that unforgettable awards night in Hollywood on April 17th,
1961 were displayed for the cameras.
Shirley went on to speak of other interesting events from
her incredible acting career. She spoke of the famous
"Robert Preston/Patrick Cassidy-- Music Man kick
during the footbridge scene." (Also in the book.)
Shirley told of being swept off her feet by her handsome,
yet down-to-earth, co-star Richard Widmark in their 1962 film
Two Rode Together. Nothing happened, of course,
because they were both married at the time.
Boone taped an interview for
The Real Me. He told the story of the missing
April Love kiss. It turns out he had actually gotten permission
from his wife, Shirley, to kiss his co-star Shirley Jones in the movie.
But the Hollywood trade papers had already received and reported
the story, "Pat Boone refuses to kiss Leading Lady for religious reasons,"
and so the kiss never happened. Pat was adorable.
He looked into the camera and said, "Shirley, Im all puckered up
and ready for that kiss you owe me."
Another very nice and moving clip came from actress Susan Dey.
Susan was only 17 years old when she was brought to Hollywood from the East Coast
to play the role of Laurie Partridge. Susan expressed fond memories of working with Shirley.
She spoke of Shirley as being the kindest, most generous lady she had ever met.
Susan also said that she learned about the best of herself and her acting ability
because of Shirleys guidance.
Some of the footage shown during this production is priceless,
home movies of her 1956 marriage to actor Jack Cassidy
in Cambridge, Mass., plus footage of Shirley and Martys
wedding in Bel Air, Calif., in 1977.
Shirley was very proud to tell everyone that her children
always have been and always will be her proudest achievement.
She is so proud of her children and their success. (Unfortunately, Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan Cassidy
were all away working and could not attend the taping.) There was a very touching moment
when Shirley spoke of their father, Jack Cassidy. Tears welled up in her eyes and she spoke of him
as her true love and her knight in shinning armor.
(Of course most people know this, but Jack died in a tragic apartment fire in 1976. He fell asleep while smoking.)
The final segment of The Real Me was very personal.
Shirley came down from the stage to sit on a couch with five of her longtime friends.
They know the REAL Shirley. It was fabulous. Betty Cantu, Cynthia Baer, Rhoda Sharp,
Noreen Stone and Shirleys oldest and dearest friend, Charlotte Lynn, told some lively stories
and they all laughed recalling their adventures together. Cynthia is a director and has worked with Shirley.
They did the musical play Bitter Sweet in the 70s.
Betty, Shirleys neighbor and friend, was also her stand-in during the Partridge Family years.
Noreen's son, Steven, became Shaun's best school friend, and so, naturally, Shirley and Noreen became good friends as well.
Rhoda spoke of Shirley as being the nicest and most loyal friend
a person could ever have. And finally, Charlotte,
whom Shirley has always called "Red."
They have known each other the longest.
Red was involved in many of Shirleys youthful misadventures
in Smithton, such as her famous
"Lets see what happens if I pull the fire alarm" episode.
Top row, left to right: Rhoda Sharp, Charlotte Lynn, and Cynthia Baer.
Bottom row: Betty Cantu, Shirley, and Noreen Stone.
The closing segment of this heartfelt broadcast was all about Shirley and Marty
and their unlikely, or not so unlikely, love story. Shirley said that when she met Marty
he made her laugh and shes never stopped, and shes never bored.
Shirley also confessed that she is still that rebel from Smithton, which is why she chose to
marry two crazy men like Jack and Marty: both men very unpredictable and funny.
I would like to thank everyone involved in this production, including Barbara Stephans,
Mr. Fisher, Mr. Merlis, Deborah Kellerman, and of course, Shirley Jones and Marty Ingels.
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