Named after child star Shirley Temple, Shirley Jones started singing at the age of six. She started formal training at the age of 12 and would dream of singing with her idol, Gordon MacRae. Upon graduating from high school, Shirley went to New York to audition for the casting director of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Taken by Shirley's beautifully trained voice, she was signed as a nurse in the Broadway production of "South Pacific." Within a year, she would be in Hollywood to appear in her first film “Oklahoma!” as the farm girl in love with cowboy Gordon MacRae. “Oklahoma!” (1955) would be filmed in CinemaScope and Todd-AO wide screen and would take a year to shoot. After that, Shirley returned to Broadway for the stage production of "Oklahoma!" before returning to Hollywood for “Carousel“(1956). But by this time, musicals were a dying art; she would have a few lean years.
She would work on television in programs like "Playhouse 90." With a screen image comparable to "peaches 'n' cream," Shirley wanted a darker role to change her image. In 1960, she would be cast as the vengeful prostitute in the Richard Brooks dramatic film “Elmer Gantry.” With a brilliant performance against an equally brilliant Burt Lancaster, Shirley would win the Oscar for Supporting Actress. But the public wanted the good Shirley so she was cast as Marion, the librarian, in the successful musical “The Music Man” (1962). Robert Preston had played the role on Broadway and his performance along with Shirley was magic. Shirley would again work with little Ronny Howard in “The Courtship of Eddie's Father” (1963). But the movies changed in the 60's, and Shirley's image did not fit, so she would see her movie career stop in 1965.
There were always nightclubs, but Shirley would be remembered by another generation as Shirley Partridge in the Television Series "The Partridge Family." While the success of the show would do more for her stepson, teen idol David Cassidy, it would keep her name and face in the public view for the four years that the series ran. Never mind the clothes, the show still plays in reruns. After the show ended, Shirley would spend the rest of the 70's in the land of television movies. The 1975 television movie "The Lives of Jenny Dolan” would be made as a pilot for a series that was not picked up. In 1979, Shirley would appear in a comedy show called "Shirley", but the show would be off the air the next year. Shirley would appear infrequently in the 80's and would appear in videos extolling fitness and beauty at the end of the decade.