Happy 80th birthday, Shirley MacLaine!
The legendary, award-winning actress, who was born April 24, 1934 in Richmond, VA, started out as a dancer and got her big break on Broadway. She made her first film with Alfred Hitchcock, became a Rat Pack regular, flirted briefly with politics but has never stopped acting as she enters her 7th decade in Hollywood.
She started off as a lovably kooky ingenue, but is known today for her cantankerous matriarch roles in "Downton Abbey," "Bernie," "Steel Magnolias," "Guarding Tess," and, of course, her Oscar-winning role as Aurora Greenway in "Terms of Endearment."
Her next gig is a singing and dancing role on "Glee," of course. Happy Birthday to one of the most talented, most colorful character actresses of all time.
1. She was named after Shirley Temple.
2. She's been performing since age 3, when she began doing ballet.
3. As a girl, she pretended she was Rita Hayworth, since they were both dancers with red hair.
4. She's OK with her kooky New Age reputation and can even laugh at it, as she told the NY Times. "Well, I'm not your run-of-the-mill lady from the Valley, am I? 'Come on, I've got lots of reasons to be viewed eccentrically.'"
5. As kids, she and brother Warren Beatty would act out Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin routines at home: She later made her second film, "Artists and Models," with the comedy duo.
6. In her first big ballet role as the fairy godmother in "Cinderella," she broke her ankle but still went on, calling for an ambulance after the final curtain.
7. She got her big break on Broadway when lead Carol Haney sprained her ankle during a production of "The Pajama Game." As her stand-in, MacLaine went on in her place and captured the interest of movie producer Hal Wallis and Alfred Hitchcock, who cast her in her first film, "The Trouble With Harry."
8. She showed up to film her first movie, Alfred Hitchcock's "The Trouble With Harry," with the entire script memorized, not realizing that wasn't necessary.
9. She's has been nominated for six Academy Awards.
10. When she won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1983 for "Terms of Endearment," she became the first actor to say, "I deserve this," during their acceptance speech.
11. One of the reasons she felt she deserved the Oscar: Her "Terms" co-star Debra Winger, reportedly broke wind in her face during filming and got under the sheets to lick MacLaine's leg during her bedroom scenes with Jack Nicholson.
12. Filming was so chaotic during "Terms" that she threatened to walk off the set, saying, "Let them get Bette Davis or Joan Crawford or somebody who can handle this. I can't." She eventually got an apology from the director for his "warped sense of humor" but mostly stayed on so she wouldn't be sued for $10 million.
13. Before she delivered her "I deserve this" acceptance speech, MacLaine says she whispered to her co-star (and Oscar rival) Debra Winger, "Half of this belongs to you."
14. She turned down the role that went to JoBeth Williams in "Poltergeist" to star in "Terms of Endearment." (No, they didn't ask her to play the psychic!)
15. MacLaine revealed to the NY Times last year, "I don't know anything about acting. Never have."
16. She was the only full-fledged female member of the Rat Pack and says they regarded her as a "loyal pet."
17. She once pointed a water pistol at one of Frank Sinatra's pals, feared mob boss Sam Giancana.
18. When Sinatra dealt with "Some Came Running" being two weeks behind schedule, he simply tore out several pages of the script. Realizing he had taken out one of MacLaine's big scenes, he suggested that the end be rewritten so that her character is killed, saying that she might "get a nomination out of it." Sure enough, she received her first Oscar nomination for the film, which co-starred Dean Martin.
19. During filming of "Some Came Running," she chewed gum before every take, then stuck it behind Sinatra's ear before the camera rolled.
20. For her cameos in Rat Pack movies, like the original "Ocean's Eleven," she says she usually received a car as her salary.
21. MacLaine was initially cast as Bonnie Parker in "Bonnie and Clyde," until her brother, Warren Beatty, was cast as Clyde. She then dropped out, leaving the iconic role to Faye Dunaway.
22. She has written 13 books and made more than 50 feature films.
23. She's starred alongside an impressive list of leading men, including Paul Newman, Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon, Peter Sellers, Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, and Nicolas Cage.
24. She had an open marriage with husband Steve Parker, and has admitted to affairs with Robert Mitchum, Yves Montand, and ... Danny Kaye (?!).
25. She developed a huge crush on happily married Dean Martin during filming of 1961's "All in a Day's Work" but never acted on it.
26. She felt insecure working with the stylish Audrey Hepburn on "The Children's Hour." They made a deal: Hepburn would teach her how to dress if Shirley would teach her how to cuss.
27. She lost patience while working with Richard Harris on "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" when he wouldn't come to the set. At three a.m., she finally yelled, "Richard, get your butt in here so we can get this mutha and go home."
28. She says she loved Clint Eastwood, even though their politics couldn't be more different.
29. She became an activist after a personal call from Marlon Brando, whom she'd never met before.
30. She met with Fidel Castro in the '70s, who personally gave her a box of cigars to hand to Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, who was sure it was a bomb when MacLaine presented it to him. (It wasn't.) Castro also gave her one of his uniforms.
31. She was a cheerleader in high school.
32. As a young ballerina, MacLaine always played the boys' roles because of the lack of male dancers and because she was taller than the other girls.
33. In her book "Sage-ing While Age-ing," she says she had alien encounters in Washington DC in the '50s and several more years later at her New Mexico ranch.
34. She says she doesn't "become" her characters like Meryl Streep. "I don't do the Meryl Streep thing. I can't give up my own identity. I need to be in cognizant awareness, maybe not total control, but awareness of who I am and whether there's a fly on my arm."
35. She admitted she had fun playing her meaner than mean character, Marjorie, in "Bernie." "Maybe with Marjorie I touched some of the behavior patterns that I would like to indulge in myself."
36. She's not a morning person: "I hate getting up early. I'm truly on Vegas time."
37. While doing a show at a hotel in Florida, she complained to Frank Sinatra that strike workers kept interrupting her show with lights and mics that went on and off. He told her, "I'll take care of it, baby." "I don't know what he did, but I had no more troubles," she wrote in "My Lucky Stars."
38. When a friend told her there was a rumor that the Mob was going to kidnap her daughter to teach her respect, MacLaine's reaction was to tell them to "go f***k themselves." She never figured out if the threat was real, but sent her daughter to live in Japan with her husband just in case.
39. She delivered one of the greatest closing lines in movie history in "The Apartment." After Jack Lemmon tells her he loves her as they're playing cards, she replies. "Shut up and deal."
40. She successfully sued producer Hal Wallis, whom she says sexually harassed her, for illegally extending her contract. The lawsuit helped end the studio system.
41. She once joked, "I've made so many movies playing a hooker that they don't pay me in the regular way anymore. They leave it on the dresser." She played a prostitute in "Irma La Douce," "Sweet Charity," and (spoiler!) "Two Mules for Sister Sara."
42. When co-star Laurence Harvey insulted her on the set of "Two Loves," she retaliated by chewing a clove of raw garlic before a love scene with him.
43. She agreed to be on "Downton Abbey" mostly because she had a crush on Mr. Bates. As she told the NY Times, "I think I wanted to meet Bates [played by Brendan Coyle], basically. And of course [series creator] Julian [Fellowes], being so wily, arranged a lunch at which nobody else was there but Bates. I guess he was seeing if he was cougar-able. Or something."
44. "Downton Abbey" castmate Penelope Wilton claims that MacLaine actually fell for another actor on set: "She fell in love with Carson -- Jim Carter, who plays Carson the butler. She thought he was heaven. How could you not?"
45. Wilton said that MacLaine even sang on the "Downton Abbey" set, including her signature song from "Sweet Charity." "It was such a thrill to work with her," Wilton told the Huffington Post. We got her to do 'If They Could See Me Now' for us. Such good fun."
46. For going toe-to-toe with the formidable Dowager Countess (played by the Emmy-winning Maggie Smith), MacLaine chose an unusual approach: "I thought the best course of action ... would be a sense of American expressive feeling. What does she do with that? I told her I was going to sing It."
47. During downtime on the "Downton Abbey" set, she and Smith gossiped about old lovers (not naming any names of course), as MacLaine told the NY Times.
48. She joked during a press conference, when asked if she had known Maggie Smith before "Downton Abbey," "Oh, yes, we were lovers in another life."
49. Psychics advised her to list her Santa Fe, NM ranch for $30 million, but she listed it for only $19 million for mystical, not monetary reasons: "Nine is the number of completion. To me, it's not about money, it's about completion."
50. She recently told Oprah, she only needs three things to be happy: "All you really need in life is some fresh water, a good hat, and a really good pair of shoes."
51. When Oprah told her that wasn't the answer she expected to hear, MacLaine admitted, "I don't have any answers. Honest to goodness, I don't."
52. Her philosophy: "I haven't planned a damn thing ever in my life. Guess what? It worked out great. I wouldn't even know how to plan. I wouldn't have a clue. I know that you can basically live in the moment, which is what I do."
53. She told an interviewer she doesn't need a man in her life: "I think the hill one has to trudge in order to understand a man's baggage is more of a trek than I'd like to take right now."
54. She directed her first movie, the comedy "Bruno," (aka "The Dress Code") in 2000.
55. She's frugal: MacLaine still has the first dollar she ever earned.
56. She says, "Possessions have never meant that much to me... I've never erected a lifestyle that would put possessions in a position of controlling me."
57. She was tempted to give away all her possessions but says, "I never had the guts."
58. She actually lost all of her possessions several times while working as a young dancer on Broadway. She didn't realize her apartment on West 116th street was "one of the most notorious dope sections of Manhattan." She simply refurnished the apartment over and over.
59. In her book, "My Lucky Stars," she wrote: "Hollywood is good for the soul. You learn to appreciate it and protect it more than anywhere else on Earth."
60. She got her signature short hairstyle on Broadway when a stage manager complained that her long ponytail was getting in the way and simply lopped it off. "I didn't object really," she says. "I've had the same haircut every since."
61. She's appearing on the April 29 episode of "Glee" as a rich socialite who takes a fancy to Blaine (Darren Criss).
62. Yes, she's on Twitter.
63. She tweeted out this "Glee" rehearsal photo.
64. She's also on Facebook. In fact, she has two pages, since she reached her friend limit.
65. She was disappointed that Nicolas Cage regarded her too respectfully while making "Guarding Tess." He finally lightened up and began teasing her: "You really have a crush on me, don't you?" "I think he eventually saw me as somewhat more playful and less mature than his 18-year-old girlfriend," she wrote in "My Lucky Stars."
66. She's worked with such prestigious directors as Billy Wilder, William Wyman, Robert Wise Vincente Minnelli, and Mike Nichols.
67. She suggested that Bob Fosse, whose musical "Pajama Game" gave her her first big break, direct her movie "Sweet Charity." He went on to win a Best Director Oscar for "Cabaret."
68. She said she never wanted to be famous or a star, she just wanted to "be good at my work."
69. She went on tour with Sinatra in 1992 and says the two never rehearsed their show but made it up on the spot every night.
70. She would purposely stand in front of the TV monitors during her tour with Sinatra so he couldn't see the lyrics.
71. She once joked, "I had a video made of my recent knee operation. The doctor said it was the best movie I ever starred in."
72. She's been nominated for six Emmys, winning one for her 1976 TV special "Gypsy in My Soul."
73. She's been nominated for 19 Golden Globes, winning four competitive Globes, as well as "Most Promising Newcomer" in 1955, "Most Versatile Actress" in 1959, and the Cecil B. DeMille award in 1998.
74. She and Barbra Streisand, who share a birthday, celebrate it together every year.
75. She's been friends with Liza Minnelli since working wither her father, Vincente Minnelli, in "Some Came Running."
76. "The Exorcist" author William Peter Blatty based the role of Chris O'Neil, the actress played in the film by Ellen Burstyn, on MacLaine, who was a friend of his.
77. She regrets turning down the lead in 1974's "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," which won Ellen Burstyn an Oscar. As MacLaine admitted to the NY Times in 2005, she had no idea who Martin Scorsese was at the time.
78. MacLaine was told by songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen that she was the inspiration for the song "The Second Time Around." "I was sure I was not the only woman to have been on the receiving end of that dedication," she wrote in "My Lucky Stars."
79. Her attitude on getting older: "I don't care what birthday you're on. It's all about how you feel. There are days when I feel like 30. The oldest I go is 50 in my mind. The number doesn't matter. But I do have a sense that I have some wisdom now. It's good to be wise. It sure beats being young and clueless."
80. When asked how she wants to celebrate her 80th birthday, she posted this note to Facebook: "Through my website I'm receiving many emails asking what I want for my 80th birthday next week. I guess world peace is too much to ask but it would be nice. If you feel a need to do something material, please donate to one of my two favorite charities: American Humane or
ASPCA. They can always use our help to care for our fur friends and, in the case of American Humane Assoc., children too."
Article photo courtesy of Getty