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Known as the girl with big red curls and weak ankles, Shirley MacLaine was born as Shirley MacLean Beaty on April 24, 1934, to Virginia native Ira Owens Beaty and his wife, Kathlyn. Ira and Kathlyn gave up their dreams to raise their family. Before Shirley was three years old, her brother and rival Warren Beatty was born on March 30 or 31, 1937. Shirley was the tallest in her ballet classes at the Washington School of Ballet. She had an excellent batting average in baseball but, as she discovered, it wasn't a good thing for a girl to do, so she tossed aside her cleats for a pair of pom-poms and joined the cheerleading squad in her high school, Washington-Lee.
As soon as she graduated, she packed her bags and headed for New York. While auditioning for Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Me and Juliet", she had a problem with the producer, who kept mispronouncing her name. He asked, "Okay, Beaty. Do you have another name, kid?" She then changed her name from Shirley MacLean Beaty to Shirley MacLaine. She later joined another play called "The Pajama Game". With her high-octane performance, she won a part and the role as an understudy to Carol Haney. Unfortunately, Haney was known for never having missed a performance in her life. A few months into the play, Shirley was going to ditch "The Pajama Game" and take the lead role in another Broadway hit, "Can-Can". She left for the theatre after being 15 minutes late because the train broke down. She then heard that Carol had broken her ankle and she was to go on in her place. Despite making many mistakes, she endeared herself to the audience. She replaced Carol again three months later following another injury. Shirley knew her lines this time and knocked them dead. Hal B. Wallis was in the audience that night with a five-year contract and signed her to Paramount Pictures. She agreed to the contract, and, three months later, she was off to shoot the movie The Trouble with Harry (1955). She then took roles in Hot Spell (1958) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), completed not too long before her daughter Sachi Parker (born Stephanie) was born. With Shirley's career on track, she played one of her most challenging roles: Ginny Moorhead in Some Came Running (1958), for which she received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She went on to do The Sheepman (1958) and The Matchmaker (1958). In 1960, she got her second Academy Award nomination for The Apartment (1960). Three years later, she received a third nomination for Irma la Douce (1963). In 1969, she brought her friend Bob Fosse from Broadway to direct her in Sweet Charity (1969), which gave her the hit trademark "If My Friends Could See Me Now".
After a three-year to five-year hiatus, Shirley made a documentary on China called The Other Half of the Sky: A China Memoir (1975), for which she received an Oscr nomination for Best Documentary. In 1977, she got her fourth Best Actress Oscar nomination for The Turning Point (1977). In 1979, she worked with Peter Sellers in Being There (1979) shortly before his death. After 20 years in the film industry, she finally took home the Oscar for Best Actress in Terms of Endearment (1983). After a five-year hiatus, Shirley made Madame Sousatzka (1988), a critical and financial hit, which took top prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 1989, she starred with Dolly Parton, Sally Field and Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias (1989). She received rave reviews playing Meryl Streep's mother in Postcards from the Edge (1990) and for Guarding Tess (1994). In 1996, she reprised her role from Terms of Endearment (1983) as Aurora Greenway in The Evening Star (1996), which didn't repeat its predecessor's success at the box office. In mid-1998, she directed Bruno (2000), which starred Alex D. Linz. In February 2001, Shirley worked with close friends once again in These Old Broads (2001) (TV), and co-starred with Julia Stiles in Carolina (2003/I) and with Kirstie Alley in Salem Witch Trials (2002) (TV). She created her own website, www.shirleymaclaine.com, in June, 2000, with includes her own radio show and interviews, the Encounter Board, and Independent Expression, a members only portion of the site. In the past few years, Shirley did a CBS miniseries on the life of cosmetics queen Mary Kay Ash in "Hell On Heels, and wrote two more books, "The Camino" in 2001, and "Out On A Leash" in 2003. After taking a slight hiatus from motion pictures, Shirley returned with roles in 3 movies that were small, but wonderfully scene-stealing last year: "Bewitched" with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell, "In Her Shoes" with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, in which Shirley was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Supporting Actress category, and "Rumor Has It" with Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner. She's currently completing filming of "Closing The Ring," directed by Sir Richared Attenborough, due for theatres in 2007, and working on her next book, the working title of which is "Saging (sage-ing) and Aging."