March 31, 1934 – Shirley Mae Jones:
“I still want to make it clear that I believe that a woman can remain sexual right through her 70s and 80s and beyond. I am living proof of that. Despite my advanced years, that hasn’t changed a bit, although it can take longer than before for me to achieve sexual fulfillment these days.”
As a Musical Theatre fan, she is a major figure for me, and her wholesome image is real, but with a few blemishes. I love that Jones is emotionally so open.
In Shirley Jones: A Memoir (2013), Academy Award-winner Shirley Jones writes that her first husband, Jack Cassidy, once talked her into having a three-way with a Las Vegas showgirl and that he taught her everything about sex.
“I was a virgin when I married Jack… He was very sexual and very upfront about it. He even told me he had affairs with men; that was the first thing he said. He told me about having an affair with Cole Porter. He just taught me new situations that I thought might be interesting, why not try it… It’s not gonna kill me.“
Among his many male affairs was hot actor/writer Tom Tryon.
Jones and Cassidy divorced in 1974 after 18 years of marriage. Cassidy was the father, from a previous marriage, of David Cassidy, the actor, singer/songwriter who played Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge (played by his stepmother Jones), in the 1970s musical-sitcom The Partridge Family, becoming one of popular culture’s teen idols and superstar pop singers of the 1970s.
Jones writes that both Cassidy men were extremely well endowed:
“David’s brothers called him Donk, for Donkey.”
Much of the book is about her troubled marriage to Cassidy, a terrifically handsome actor and singer who claims was her first lover and “sexual Svengali”.
If that’s not titillating enough, she writes about her sex encounters that involved other stars, including a night in the late 1960s, after she and Cassidy had dinner with Anthony Newley and his wife Joan Collins at their home. Newley had a world-class collection of porn films and suggested the four of them get naked and have a very special movie night.
The book also has a chapter about the night Jones and Cassidy were at Sammy Davis Jr.’s Beverly Hills house, where lines of cocaine were waiting on every tabletop and porn played on television screens throughout the Davis home.
In her six decades in showbiz, Jones has starred as wholesome characters in film musicals, Including Oklahoma! (1955), Carousel (1956), and The Music Man (1962). She won her Academy Award for playing a vengeful prostitute in Elmer Gantry (1960). Out of all of her costars, including Marlon Brando and Jimmy Stewart, Jones writes that Elmer Gantry star Burt Lancaster was her favorite and he was the best kisser.
Her early life and dazzling career included working with two musical theatre masters, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Her first audition was for an open biweekly casting call held by the casting director for Rodgers and Hammerstein and their various musicals. At the time, Jones had never heard of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The casting director was so impressed, he ran across the street to get Rodgers, who was rehearsing with an orchestra. Rodgers then called Hammerstein at home. The partners saw the potential in Jones and she became the first and only performer to be put under personal contract with the songwriters. They first cast her in a minor role in South Pacific. For her second Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway show, Me And Juliet, she was cast in the chorus and understudy for the lead role.
She was cast as the lead in the film adaptation of their musicals Oklahoma! in 1955 and Carousel (1956). She made more musicals including April Love (1957), and The Music Man (1962), typecast as a wholesome, kind character. It is nice then that she she won her Oscar for playing a prostitute. The director of Elmer Gantry, Richard Brooks, fought against her being in the film, but after seeing her first scene, told her she would win an Oscar for her performance. It also brought backlash from her fans. Jones and Elizabeth Taylor are the only actors to win Oscars for playing prostitutes in the same year: Taylor for BUtterfield 8 (1960). Jones also played a hooker in The Cheyenne Social Club (1970).
She reunited with little Ronnie Howard who had played her little brother in The Music Man in The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father (1963).
In 1970, she turned down the role of Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, a role that then went to her friend, Florence Henderson. Jones was the producers’ first choice for Shirley Partridge in The Partridge Family, which was loosely based on the real-life musical family The Cowsills. The series is about a young widowed mother who with five children form a pop rock group who travel around in a painted school bus. Jones:
“The problem with Partridge—though it was great for me and gave me an opportunity to stay home and raise my kids—when my agents came to me and presented it to me, they said if you do a series and it becomes a hit show, you will be that character for the rest of your life and your film career will go into the toilet, which is what happened. But I have no regrets.“
It ran from 1970 to 1974, as part of The ABC Friday-night lineup, and then a long run in syndication. It was huge hit in over 70 countries. Within months of airing, Jones and her co-stars were pop culture icons.
The show’s soundtrack launched albums and singles by The Partridge Family, performed by Cassidy and Jones. I Think I Love You reached Number One on the Pop and Rock charts, making Jones the second person, after Frank Sinatra, and the first woman, to win an acting Oscar and also have a Number-One hit on that chart, an achievement matched only by Cher and Barbra Streisand. The Partridge Family was nominated for a Grammy for Best New Artist.
Jones was shocked to hear her stepson was going to audition for the role of Keith Partridge. At the auditions, he was introduced to Jones because the producers had no idea they were related. Cassidy later wrote:
“She wasn’t my mother, and I can be very open, and we can speak, and we became very close friends. She was a very good role model for me, watching the way, you know, she dealt with people on the set, and watching people revere her.”
After the series’ popularity began to decline in the USA, it began to increase in the UK. This new popularity gave the Partridge Family five UK Top 10 Hits. After 96 episodes and eight Partridge Family albums, ABC canceled the show.
In 1979, she starred in Shirley on NBC, which, just like The Partridge Family, featured a family headed by a widowed mother. It cancelled in the middle of its only season. She kept busy with guest star roles on television. In 2004, she returned to Broadway in a revival of 42nd Street, opposite Patrick Cassidy, probably the first time a mother and son team starred together on Broadway. In 2012, Jones played Mrs. Paroo, when Patrick Cassidy played Harold Hill, in the California Musical Theatre production of The Music Man.
In 1977, Jones married comedian Marty Ingels. Despite separations and divorce petition in 2002, they remained married until Ingels’ death in 2015 from a massive stroke.
On a December evening in 1976, after Jones had refused a reconciliation with Jack Cassidy, she learned that her ex-husband’s penthouse apartment was on fire. The fire started from his lit cigarette when he fell asleep on the couch; the following morning, firefighters found Cassidy’s body inside the gutted apartment. Jones:
“Jack wanted to come back to me right up to the day he died. And as I realized later, I wanted him. That’s the terrible part. Much as I love Marty and have a wonderful relationship—I’d say this with Marty sitting here—I’m not sure if Jack were alive I’d be married to Marty.”
Jones was 20 years old when she met Cassidy, who was eight years her senior, and she refers to him as the most influential person in and the love of her life.
David Cassidy died on November 21, 2017. The day after his death, Jones commented:
“Long before he played my son on The Partridge Family, he was my stepson in real life. As a little boy, his sweet sensitivity, and wicked sense of humor were already on display, and I will treasure the years we spent working and growing together. I will also find solace knowing that David is now with his dad.”
On Jack Cassidy, Jones writes:
“He treated me so magnificently in every way. He was an ideal husband; he did everything, and he taught me everything. He was a great singer; we did Wait Until Dark together, we did The Marriage Band together. We loved working together and being together, but he started to go downhill because he was bipolar. I was always the movie star and the breadwinner in the family, and that was always hard on him, because he wanted that more than anything in the world. In fact, things were just starting to happen for him when he died.”