Shirley MacLean Beaty (born April 24, 1934), known professionally as Shirley MacLaine, is an American film and theater actress, singer, dancer, activist and author. She has won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy twice, for her roles in The Apartment and Irma la Douce, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama twice for Terms of Endearment and Madame Sousatzka. She was honored with the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1998. She was nominated for an Academy Award five times before winning the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1983 for her role as Aurora Greenway in Terms of Endearment. She won the 1976 Emmy Award for Outstanding Special – Comedy-Variety or Music for Gypsy in My Soul. Her younger brother is Warren Beatty. She is known for her New Age beliefs and interest in spirituality and reincarnation. She has written a large number of autobiographical works, many dealing with her spiritual beliefs as well as her Hollywood career. In 2012 she was honored with the 40th AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film, by the American Film Institute.
Named after Shirley Temple, Shirley MacLean Beaty was born in Richmond, Virginia. Her father, Ira Owens Beaty, was a professor of psychology, public school administrator, and real estate agent, and her mother, Kathlyn Corinne (née MacLean), was a drama teacher originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada; MacLaine's grandparents were also teachers. Her parents raised their children as Baptists. Her uncle (her mother's brother-in-law) was A.A. MacLeod, a Communist member of the Ontario legislature in the 1940s. While she was still a child, Ira Beaty moved his family from Richmond to Norfolk, and then to Arlington, Virginia and Waverly, eventually taking a position at Arlington's Thomas Jefferson Junior High School.
She had very weak ankles as a child, so her mother decided to enroll her in ballet class. Strongly motivated by ballet, she never missed a class. In classical romantic pieces like Romeo & Juliet and Sleeping Beauty, she always played the boys' roles, being the tallest in the group, due to the absence of males in the class. She got to play a substantial female role as the fairy godmother in Cinderella. While warming up backstage, she broke her ankle, but proceeded to dance the role all the way through. MacLaine ultimately decided that professional ballet wasn't for her because she had grown too tall, was not good enough to make it a career, and didn't have the requisite "beautifully constructed feet" (high arches, high insteps). She also found ballet too limiting. After leaving ballet, she pursued dancing and acting.
She attended Washington-Lee High School, where she was on the cheerleading squad and acted in the school's productions. The summer before her senior year, she was in New York to try acting on Broadway with some success. After she graduated, she returned and within a year she became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; Haney broke her ankle, and MacLaine replaced her. A few months after, with Haney still out of commission, film producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience, took note of MacLaine, and signed her to work for Paramount Pictures. She later sued Wallis over a contractual dispute, a suit that has been credited with ending the old-style studio star system of actor management.