Shirley Jones Oscar Winner
Early stage career
Shirley Jones in 2010
In New York City, her voice teacher convinced her to audition for a Broadway agent, Gus Sherman. Sherman was pleased to put Jones under contract, and with her parents’ approval, she resettled in New York City and gave herself one year to become a Broadway performer. She only had $100 in her pocket. If she did not succeed, she would move back to Smithton and study to be a veterinarian.
Her first audition was for an open bi-weekly casting call held by John Fearnley, casting director for Rodgers and Hammerstein and their various musicals. At the time, Jones had never heard of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Fearnley was so impressed that he ran across the street to fetch Richard Rodgers, who was rehearsing with an orchestra for an upcoming musical. Rodgers then called Oscar Hammerstein at home. The two saw great potential in Jones. She became the first and only singer to be put under personal contract with the songwriters. They first cast her in a minor role in South Pacific. For her second Broadway show, Me and Juliet, she started as a chorus girl, and then an understudy for the lead role, earning rave reviews in Chicago, Illinois.
Movie actress of the 1950s and 1960s
Jones impressed Rodgers and Hammerstein with her musically trained voice and she was cast as the female lead in the film adaptation of their hit musical Oklahoma! in 1955. Other film musicals quickly followed, including Carousel, April Love (1957) andThe Music Man, in which she was often typecast as a wholesome, kind character. However, she won a 1960 Academy Award for her performance in Elmer Gantry portraying a woman corrupted by the title character played by Burt Lancaster. Her character becomes a prostitute who encounters her seducer years later and takes her revenge. She was reunited with Ron Howard (who had played a role in The Music Man) in The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963). Jones landed the role of a lady who fell in love with the professor in Fluffy (1965). She also has an impressive stage résumé, including playing the title character in the Broadway musicalMaggie Flynn in 1968.
Prolific television character actress
As a teenager, Jones made her acting début on an episode of Fireside Theatre. The part led to other roles including: