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Shirley Jones is best known for her roles in classic musical films like “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man.” She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Elmer Gantry.” And she played one of television’s best-known moms in “The Partridge Family.” Often cast as a wholesome, all-American beauty, she grew up in small-town Pennsylvania as a tomboy who loved to sing. Nineteen-year-old Jones grabbed the attention of Broadway legends Rodgers and Hammerstein at her first audition. But life behind the scenes, in challenging marriages and raising three sons in the world of show business, wasn’t always so easy. Diane talks with singer and actor Shirley Jones about her life on and off the screen.
- Shirley Jones actor, singer and author.
The Life And Times Of Shirley Jones
Read An Excerpt
Reprinted from “Shirley Jones: A Memoir” by Shirley Jones with permission from Gallery Books. Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Shirley Jones had major starring roles in American classic films "Oklahoma," "Carousel" and "The Music Man." And of course, she portrayed one of TV's adored moms in the 70s hit "The Partridge Family." Fewer fans may know of her Oscar-winning dramatic role in the 1960 film "Elmer Gantry." In a new memoir she talks openly about her life as a singer, actor and now author.
MS. DIANE REHMShirley Jones joins me in the studio. You are welcome to be part of the program. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. What a pleasure to have you here.
MS. SHIRLEY JONESThank you, thank you, Diane.
REHMAnd I want to report to all our listeners you look exactly the same as you always have, that beautiful hair and that youthful face.
JONESThank you, that's very nice to hear.
REHMCongratulations to you.
JONESThank you, so do you.
REHMThank you. Talk about growing up in Smithton, Pa. First, where is it?
JONESIt's about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh. It's a very small town, 800 residents. And my grandfather who came over from Wales when he was about four years old decided to build a brewery. It was the Jones Brewing Company and he built it in this little, tiny town and employed most of the town.
JONESAnd my grandmother had eight children, four boys, four girls...
JONES...and all of the boys worked the brewery, my father being the youngest. It was great. I had wished I could raise my kids in a town like that.
REHMYou raised your children instead in?
JONESIn Beverly Hills.
REHMAnd with a good school system...
JONESYeah, that was the reason I was there.
REHMBut what about your own growing up school system?
JONESWell, you know it was such a small town. Our public school had two grades in one room and one teacher you know, 1st and 2nd, 3rd and 4th and then the high school was just 300 residents in the high school. You know my class...
REHMThe entire high school?
JONESThe entire high school, yes. And we had to take a little bus to go outside the little town to go to the high school. And my class was only about 55 altogether, you know, and I try to go to the class reunion every year.
REHMYou were an only child?
JONESOnly child, yes.
REHMSo that gave you lots of special feelings?
JONESOh, absolutely, absolutely, although I think I always missed having brothers and sisters, but I had so many cousins and everybody lived so close...
JONES...so the family was close, you know. And I was a big animal nut, you know. I raised everything from birds to mice to snakes you name it and wanted to be a veterinarian all my life.
REHMBut you had this extraordinary voice.
REHMHow did people find out about your extraordinary voice?
JONESWell, it was there you know. It was a gift and I was singing when I was, you know, three, four, five years old the youngest member of the church choir at age six in my little town. And I thought everybody could sing, you know, it was given to me. And I sang for all of the, you know, the family events and all the local, the Lions Club and The Rotary Club, you know, in town.
JONESAnd then during the summers I would go to a place called the Pittsburgh Playhouse and study drama and dance and so on you know and loved performing. But I still had this dream to become a veterinarian so I was very mixed about what I was going to do.
REHMInteresting. You were closer to your father than to your mother?
REHMTell us about that.
JONESWell, my mother was very strong. I mean, she was, you know, and I was an only child and so was I. I was strong, too. So in other words, we butted heads quite a bit, yeah exactly. And my father was the sweetheart of the world. I dedicated my book to my father. I adored him but he died at 49 as did my husband Jack Cassidy die at 49. So I lost two incredible men at that age.
REHMHow did your father die?
JONESHe had lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker and actually I hate to say this, but he died of a doctor's mistake because he went in, had the surgery, had the tumor removed and he was doing well. And suddenly, the doctor that did this surgery was out on another occasion and there was sort of just a young intern working and his other lung started to fill up.
JONESHe needed a tracheotomy and the doctor didn't see it and...
JONES...and he drowned.
REHMAnd Jack Cassidy, how did he die?
JONESWell Jack, you know was a horrendous thing, too. Jack was a heavy smoker, too. It was interesting 'cause actually cigarettes killed both Jack and my father. Jack was smoking in his apartment. We were separated at this time and a cigarette had gone into the naugahyde couch and he went out to dinner with some friends, came back after dinner, fell asleep on the couch.
JONESThe couch exploded and the whole apartment caught on fire and he, you know.
REHMHe went with it.
JONESHe went with it.
JONESYeah, it was horrible.
REHMHorrible. But I want to go back a bit because, I mean, the story of your getting these lead singing roles was sort of magical.
JONESVery magical, yes. Again, you know, my life has been extraordinary. It really has been, Diane. Every summer I would go -- we would go to New York City, my parents and I. That was our holiday. And I just graduated high school and I was on my way to college to become a veterinarian.
JONESAnd we were in New York. This was July. I was going to college in the fall and I knew this pianist that I'd worked with at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. So I called him and he said, come on, Shirl, come on up, we'll sing a couple of tunes, you know.
JONESHe said, listen, Rodgers and Hammerstein's casting director is having open auditions for anybody that wants to sing for him. They had about three shows running on Broadway at that time and their shows ran so long they had to keep replacing chorus people all the time.
JONESNow, I hardly -- I didn't even know who Rodgers and Hammerstein were, you know. I was this little kid from a small town.
JONESAnyway, he talked me into going and singing and I stood in line with everybody else, got to the stage, sang for the casting director and he said, Miss Jones, could you wait a few moments? Mr. Rodgers just happens to be across the street rehearsing his orchestra for "Oklahoma" which was about to open at City Center and go out on another tour.
JONESHe said, I want him to hear you and I said, well, I guess so, you know.
REHMYeah, yeah, what did you know?
JONESExactly. And all of a sudden, down the aisle comes this gentleman and he said, Miss Jones? And I said, yes. I said, what did you say your name was again? He said, Richard Rodgers.
JONESRight, rather sternly. I sang for him and he said...
REHMWhat did you sing?
JONESI sang -- oh, wait a minute. I sang "The Best Things in Life are Free." That was sort of my, you know, up tempo ballad. Then I sang "Lover" in a high soprano key and I sang a little song that my pianist had written just for me, and three songs. And he said, could you wait about 20 minutes? I'm going to call my partner, Oscar Hammerstein at home. He canceled the rest of the auditions for the day.
REHMOh, my gosh.
JONESAnd he said, I want him to hear you. You know, it's my first audition anywhere, anyplace...
JONES...anytime, ever. Now my pianist said, Shirley, I hate to do this to you, but I have to leave. I have an airplane to catch. It was some sort of holiday. And Rodgers said, never mind, we'll think of something. I waited. Down the aisle finally comes this very tall gentleman by the name of Hammerstein and he said, Miss Jones, do you know the score of "Oklahoma"? And I said, well, I said, I might know some of the music, but I don't know the words. And I'm talking to the lyricist, you understand.
JONESHe said, never mind. I happen to have a score here. I said, but Mr. Hammerstein, my pianist had to leave. I have no one to play. And Rodgers said, we have the full City Center Symphony across the street.
REHMOh, my gosh.
JONESNow, I had never heard a symphony, seen a symphony, let alone sing with one.
JONESI know my first audition anywhere. He took me across the street. I held the score in front of my face so I didn't have to look at the two gentlemen and I sang "People Will Say We're in Love," "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," and "Oklahoma" with the City Center Symphony.
JONESThree weeks later, I was in my first Broadway show.
REHMLet's hear one clip from "Oklahoma."
REHMHow easy was it for you to learn this music?
JONESWell, it was very easy, even though I couldn't read music and I never could. I still can't read music, but I had such an ear, you know. Again, it was a gift that was given to me. I would hear a song once and I was able to sing it, you know, so I had that, too. I had this really good ear for the sound.
REHMSo you just began doing this. You had no fright on the stage?
JONESYou know, I wasn't sure. I was so young. I'd been in the business such a short time, I thought it happened to everybody. I didn't know that I was -- you know. Show business is easy. I don't know what people are talking about, you know.
REHMAnd of course, out the window went this ambition...
REHM...a veterinarian. Shirley Jones, and when we come back, we'll talk more, hear more of her beautiful voice and take your calls. Stay with us.
JONESAnd with me here in the studio, the woman with that gorgeous voice, Shirley Jones. She not only has that voice, she has acting chops as well. You were the first and only singer to be put under personal contract with Rogers and Hammerstein. Tell me about that.
JONESThat's right, yes. When they -- my first show that they put me in was "South Pacific" and it was the last three of the Broadway Company. Mary Martin was no longer in it. You know, it was just the understudies. And I was one of the nurses and I had one line, which was great. So I was an actress finally, too, you know. And it was, "What's the trouble, knucklehead?" was my line.
REHMI love it.
JONESWell, Shakespeare and Chekov don't come in that line.
REHMYou can still deliver that, absolutely. And how -- what was it like to work with them?
JONESThey were wonderful. They were just so wonderful. You know, Hammerstein particularly was an incredible man, you know. Rogers, you know, was a little bit of a ladies' man, so I had a little bit of a thing with him about that. But he was wonderful. What I did was really wonderful, Diane. He invited me up to his office, you know, he locked and he out his arm around me and he said, you have a boyfriend.
JONESAnd I said, oh, yes, I'm engaged I said. And of course, I -- and he said, oh, well, you know, he'll wait for you. And I said, you know, it's so wonderful to have a grandfather here with me.
REHMOh, weren't you a smart lady.
JONESHow about that?
JONESFrom then on, it was wonderful.
REHMAnd I want to make sure that listeners have the number to call, 800-433-8850. How did you come to play Laurey in "Oklahoma"?
JONESWell, I sang for them. I went into "South Pacific" and they immediately were thinking of me for the role of Laurey. That's why they put me in their show and sign me to a contract. I was the only person ever put under personal contract to Rogers and Hammerstein. I was never under contract to a studio or anything like that. And under that, I did -- under the contract, I did "South Pacific" on tour and then another show.
JONESAnd then did "Oklahoma." And while I was on tour with another show that they had, they sent me to California to do the screen test with Gordon MacRae, which was wonderful, which was unusual. He was already cast with the film. And Fred Zinnemann was the director and he was a wonderful film director. I was very fortunate to have him as my director on the test. And after I finish the test, he said: Ms. Jones, have you ever acted before a camera before? And I said no. He said, don't change a thing. He said, you're a natural.
MR. GORDON MACRAEHey. If there's anybody out and around this yard can hear my voice, I want them to know that Ms. Laurey Williams is my girl.
MACRAEAnd she went and got me to ask her to marry me.
JONESThey'll hear you all the way to Catoosie.
MACRAELet them. (singing) Let people say we're in love. Who cares what happens now.
JONES(singing) Just keep your hand in mine. Your hand feels so grand in mine. Let people say we're in love.
MACRAE(singing) Let people say we're in love.
REHMWhat was it like working with Gordon MacRae?
JONESHe was wonderful. I was so fortunate and I was such a fan. You know, when I was about 16 years old, they had a radio show called "The Teen-Times Club." And Gordon hosted the show and sang on the show. And every Saturday morning I would turn that show on to listen to him sing. And I thought, oh, it's the most beautiful voice I ever heard. Little did I know that I will be singing with him.
REHMIt's a combination of those two voices, could you feel?
JONESYes, absolutely. Oh, yes, it was wonderful. I loved him. He and his wife Sheila, you know, when I had my first son Shaun, you know, they became the godparents. And I'm still -- Sheila is still alive, but she's in a home now and she has dementia but they were wonderful people.
REHMTell me about what you think made Rogers and Hammerstein so great.
JONESWell, they were the most incredible music writers, I think, ever. I mean, that's my feeling. Everything they did, I mean, the score of "Carousel" to me is the most beautiful music ever written. And by the way, my opinion was shared by Rogers himself. He said that that was the best thing he ever wrote. And I agree. When I hear it, I cry. You know, so beautiful.
REHMAnd both you and I had tears in our eyes.
JONESOh, absolutely. I open my concert -- I'm still doing concerts all over the country. And I open my show with "If I Loved You" and I close with "You'll Never Walk Alone." The most beautiful music.
REHMAbsolutely. You know, I understand that Frank Sinatra was supposed to be in that film. What happened?
JONESThat's right, yes. Absolutely. Well, actually we rehearsed -- we did everything. You know, Frank was thrilled about playing the part and he was cast. And we did all the pre-recordings, whatever happened to those, I don't know and all the costumes, all the rehearsals. You know, you rehearsed a musical movie at that time almost like a Broadway show. There'd be months of rehearsal before shooting started.
JONESSo I did all of that with Frank. And he was thrilled. He said, Shirley, it's the best male role ever written, you know, for a singer. And, well, then Boothbay Harbor, Maine was where we were shooting. And I left for the location, Boothbay and we were out on a dock and ready for the first scene with Frank. Suddenly -- and I knew that, by the way, we were going to be shooting in two separate processes, regular cinemascope and what they call cinemascope 55.
JONESWhich would mean we might have to shoot some of the scenes twice. That's what they were doing then. But everybody knew that. And Frank arrived in his limousine from the airport and she saw the two cameras right on the dock where we were. Henry Wilson was the director. He said, why the two cameras? You know, everybody looked at him and Henry said, well, you know, Frank, we're shooting in two separate processes.
JONESAnd Frank said, does that mean I'll have to shoot a scene twice? He said, perhaps sometimes. He said, I signed to do one movie, not two. Back in the car, back to the airport. The first scene on the dock in Boothbay Harbor. The producer, the Ephrons, Phoebe and Henry Ephron were the producers. He came over to me with tears running down his face. He said, Shirley, where is Gordon MacRae?
JONESAnd I said, I think he's doing a nightclub act with his wife Sheila. You know, he said, can you get him on the phone. He gave me some quarters on the dock, I put it on a payphone.
REHMNo cell phones at that time.
JONESExactly right. And believe it or not, I got him on the phone, got Gordon on the phone and I said, Gordon, how would you like to play Billy Bigelow in "Carousel"? He said, give me three days, I have to lose 10 pounds.
JONESThat's how he got the part. But, you know, I found out later -- and this was just rather recently, a couple of years ago -- because I would run into Frank every now and then and say, what happened? What was it? I don't want to talk about it, Shirley. I don't want to talk about it, he'd say. A couple of years ago I was in a press conference with some of the old guys, you know, the old geezers from the press sitting in the back row.
JONESAnd they said, Shirley, don't you know why Frank left? I said, do you? And he said, oh, yeah, everybody knows. What was it? Ava Gardner was doing "Mogambo" with Clark Gable in Africa. And she called him and she said, unless you get your fanny down here, I'm having an affair with Gable. Down he went.
REHMAnd he lost her anyway.
JONESExactly right. Exactly right.
REHMHe lost her anyway. You write a great deal about your relationship with Jack Cassidy.
REHMHe was a complicated fellow.
JONESYes. Well, he was bipolar, you know, which we discovered later. Yeah, very much bipolar. And at that time, you know, now they have all kinds of sort of drugs and things you can take for that, but it wasn't anything then. He was a heavy drinker and I came to know later on drugs as well. So it was a combination of all those things. But he was the love of my life. I mean, he was -- he had everything, he taught me everything. I was this very young, naïve little girl and he was about eight years older.
REHMHow old were you when you married?
JONESTwenty-two. And, you know, he was handsome, debonair, taught me the right foods to eat, my first martini, my first everything. And I was a virgin when I married him, you know. And he taught me everything I ever wanted to know about sex. And that was -- and I adored him. And one of the reasons that I wanted to please him in every way, shape and form is that I was the breadwinner, I was the movie star.
JONESAnd he, you know, we'd walk into a room and all the attention would be -- and I got to the point where we'd walk into a room and I'd go and sit in the chair and let him take over. Or I'd go to the ladies room and stay there, you know? I wanted to please him so desperately. And I wanted his children and all of that. So, you know, but it was a tough go for him, just a tough go because of who I was and what I was, you know.
REHMHad he been drinking and using drugs before you were married, you think?
JONESI don't know about that. I don't think so. I think it basically started, you know, after we were married. And, you know, we had a show -- you know, I worked with Jack all over the place. We had a show called "The Marriage Band," which we took all over the country. We had singers and dancers and our own band members and everything else, played the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas three times with our show and everywhere else.
JONESAnd then I did "Wait Until Dark," you know, the play where I played the blind woman. We did that on tour all over the country together, you know. So we worked together a lot. And as I said, you know, marriage to me was definite. I mean, I wasn't one of these people who said, oh, I'll get a divorce if I don't -- I'm not happy. That was never me. Marriage...
REHMWell, it was your family.
JONESYes, that's right.
REHMIt was your upbringing.
REHMIt was what you knew.
JONESThat's right, exactly. It's what I knew. And so I wanted to make it work and I adored him, you know.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." You have some very explicit data in this book regarding sex.
REHMAnd your sexual life with Jack Cassidy and others. But the question becomes why you put it into the book.
JONESWell, you know, I have -- I'm almost 80 years old as we said. And...
REHMAnd you're such a young, young looking person.
JONESWell, I don't know about that but I figured if I ever was going to write a book about, you know, everybody knows me, my career, Mrs. Partridge. You know, Mary the librarian. All of those things. And fortunately I won an Academy Award playing a prostitute...
JONES...which gave me the longevity I've had in my career. Otherwise when you're a singer they don't think of you as an actress, you know. So I decided it was the same kind of idea when I decided that if I was gonna write a book, yes, my career of course would be a part of it. But I wanted people to know about my personal life as well. That I'm not just a robot that stands up and sings, that I have feelings.
JONESAnd I've married the two men that I fell in love with. You know, I was never -- you know, Jack was the love of my life. And then when he died, you know, I married Marty. We're married 35 years. And I never could have married sort of 9 to 5 guys. I had to have somebody that was a little odd and both of them were and both of them made me laugh. You know, Jack made me laugh too. I'm still laughing with Marty.
JONESBut I figured if I was going to tell all, this was the time to do it. And I wanted people to know that what I did with Jack was for Jack mostly, you know. And anything that he wanted, I was willing to do. And finally, you know, I stopped that. But I wanted to please because I was the breadwinner. I was the one that was, you know, and I wanted him to feel good about himself.
REHMWe have a brief cut from the film for which you won an Academy Award. You play the prostitute Lulu Bains. She talks about Elmer Gantry.
JONESTo Elmer Gantry, God is an all-American football player with a long white beard, who carries lightning in one hand and a bag of tricks in the other. And Gantry has the high precious style and personality to sell this God even to big city slickers. He can make innocent people feel guilty and bad people feel good. Gantry has a voice made for promises.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMANCan he save anybody?
JONESCan he? Can he? Anywhere, anytime. In a tent standing up, laying down or any other way. And he's got plenty of ways.
WOMANLulu? Was you saved by him, Lulu, honey?
JONESSister, I was saved by him way back in Schoenheim, Kansas. Love. Love is the morning and the evening star. And what is love? Not the carnal, but the divine love. Oh, he gave me special instructions back at the pulpit Christmas eve. He got to howling, repent. Repent. And I got to moaning: Save me. Save me. The first thing I knew, he rammed the fear of God into me so fast I never heard my old man's footsteps. The next thing I knew, I was out in the cold, hard snow in my bare little soul.
REHMReally extraordinary that you moved from the big musical to this extraordinary drama.
JONESYes, it was. And as I said, you know, Burt Lancaster was the reason I got the role in "Gantry" because the writer -- director Richard Brooks didn't want me. You know, he just didn't think I was right for it. But Burt fought for me.
REHMClearly you were. Shirley Jones. And when we come back, it's your turn. We'll open the phones.
REHMAnd we're back with a very special guest, actress, singer, Shirley Jones. Let's open the phones and first go to Seaside, Calif., hi, Shauna, you're on the air.
SHAUNAHi, thank you, Diane. I really love your show.
SHAUNAMy question for Shirley is about her personal realization moments of success because you talked about being so young that you didn't really realize the scope of what you were doing or the magnitude of what you were doing and how successful you were. So in this industry, you know, it can be -- your success can be measured in the money that you make or the fame or whether you're in demand as an actress and I wonder, for you, what was the personal moment of realizing that success?
JONESWell, I have to tell you when I, you know, after I did "Oklahoma," then I did "Carousel." And I thought well, I guess I can sing, you know, but I still wasn't sure. I think when I won the Academy Award, you know, I think that really gave me the longevity I've had in my career because then I proved myself as an actress.
REHMWhat did you say, do you recall...
REHM...when you got on the stage to accept?
JONESI do and my husband, Marty, said Shirley, I don't know why you said that. I said this is the best moment of my career. He said why didn't you say the best moment of your life? I said, because it wasn't the best moment of my life.
REHMGood for you.
JONESHaving my children was the best moment of my life.
REHMI feel the same way.
JONESBut it gave me the longevity I've had.
REHMAll right. To Orlando, Fla. Destiny, you're on the air.
DESTINYHello, Diane, how are you guys?
REHMHi, fine thank you.
DESTINYWell, great. I just wanted to call and I didn't really have a question, but I just happen to turn on the radio and Shirley was speaking about how her early life and how she started around the age of 22, which is the age that I'm at now.
JONESOh, really, oh.
DESTINYYeah, well, yes, it is. And a generation later, there's a gap between where I'm at and her audience, but your spirit alone -- I'm going to go home and just Google everything that I possibly can about you.
JONESOh, aren't you sweet. That's nice, thank you.
DESTINYYes, very -- it's just very refreshing to hear somebody -- I don't know, you just speak so great. I just love it.
REHMShe really does, doesn't she, Destiny? Thanks for calling. Let's go to Hurst, Texas, Kristin, you're on the air.
KRISTINHi, Ms. Rehm, thank you for taking my call.
KRISTINI just wanted to thank Ms. Jones. I grew up with your partnership with Rodgers and Hammerstein and watching the Partridge Family and I used to listen to my Music Man soundtrack on cassette at night when I was afraid to go sleep.
JONESOh, that's so nice. It's a beautiful score.
KRISTINI really appreciate a God given for music because I have not been given that gift, but my husband and my children have.
JONESWell, that's nice.
KRISTINAnd I have had the joy of watching them perform together in our community theater...
JONESOh, how wonderful. Good for you.
KRISTIN...In "The Music Man" and "Oklahoma" and a number of other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals and I'm so happy to be able to share those musicals and that musical tradition with them and that's a lot to do with me growing up listening to you.
JONESThat's very sweet. I'm so pleased. Thank you.
REHMTalk about that musical.
JONESIt was so wonderful. To me, it's the most beautiful music ever written, you know. And I have to tell you, Diane, the interesting thing is that my son, Patrick, and I have been performing this all over the country. And next year is the 50th anniversary of "The Music Man."
JONESAnd we're taking out a concert version of the show. I'm going to Mrs. Paroo. He's going to play the lead and I'll show film clips, talk about the movie and I was pregnant with him all during the shoot. And he kicked Robert Preston because I wasn't able to tell anybody. And so it's a wonderful show. The public will love it because I'm going to be 80 years old and I'm working with my son all over the country.
REHMOh, what a treat for you.
JONESYeah, it is.
REHMBut this music, so beautiful.
JONESIsn't it gorgeous? It really is.
REHMJust absolutely beautiful.
JONESIt's a perfect musical, you know. I think Meredith Wilson's life, that was his life and it's just -- it's a perfect musical in every way.
REHMWhat do you think about today's music? You know, Barry Manilow was on this program just a few weeks ago. And we were talking about the fact that there are no singables.
JONESThat's right. So right and I agree.
REHMAnd here you've got these beautiful songs.
JONESI know. I don't get it. I mean, I don't understand the music at all today. I mean, I -- because when I listen, I can't hear the lyrics. I barely hear a melody and, you know, I don't know what it's about so it's not my kind of stuff.
REHMSo when you turn on radio...
REHM...to listen to music, what do you listen to?
JONESWell, normally I don't even turn the radio on, to be very honest with you.
REHMYou don't, oh.
JONESBecause most of the time there isn't anything that I want to listen to, you know. And unless I'm listening to you, you know.
JONESBut I mean as far as music goes, you know, it's rare for me. And so I play my own music at home.
REHMAll right. Let's take a call from Akron, Ohio, hi, Kim.
KIMOh, hello. I've didn't want to make anything but a star struck comment about both you ladies. Diane, I love your show.
KIMI've been listening and please stay on the air as long as possible.
KIMAnd now for Ms. Jones, I was telling the screener that I used to watch "The Partridge Family" and I know everybody my age who was, you know, young, about 17 back then, they tuned in for David Cassidy. I tuned in for you.
JONESThat's nice to hear. Thank you.
KIMI was looking up to you so much.
JONESThat's great. Thank you.
REHMThis really made your stepson, David Cassidy, a big star.
JONESOh, yeah, big, big time.
REHMHow well did you get along with him at the time?
JONESOh, it was wonderful. It was wonderful. I mean, yeah, he was delightful and he was so good at everything that he did, you know. I mean they came to me -- I was the first person cast in the Partridge Family and the producers came to me and said, you know, how do you feel about your stepson, David Cassidy. And I said why. We're thinking of casting him as Keith Partridge. I said he'd be perfect. Now he didn't know I was cast, right. I walk on the set and he's standing there. He turned around and he said what are you doing here?
REHMWhat are you doing here?
JONESI said, I'm your mama.
REHMDid you enjoy that role?
JONESYeah, I did very much. You know, I wasn't going to do a television series because the managers and agents said don't do that because if it is successful you'll be that character for the rest of your life and your movie career will be in the toilet, you know. And they were right about that, but I was offered the Brady Bunch first and I turned it down because I didn't want to be the normal nine to five mom, you know, taking the roast out of the oven.
JONESBut when Partridge came along I was the first working mother on television and here we were a family, you know, working together with music. And I thought, wow, that's great. I want to do that. And it gave me an opportunity to stay home and raise my kids who were school age at the time so it was a marvelous thing for me.
REHMHow many years did that continue?
JONESAlmost five, about four and a half, yeah.
REHMSo it was good in every way.
REHMThat's marvelous to have that feeling. You did divorce your first husband.
JONESBecause he wanted a divorce. I never would have done it. He, you know, he was -- he was all over the place and he was bipolar, as I said, and to the point where he was dangerous, in a way. I had to have him taken away in a straight jacket from the house...
JONES...Because he was lighting fires in all the fireplaces and scaring me to death with my kids, you know. And so after that then he separated from me and he said I think you should divorce me. And I thought I guess I should, you know.
REHMDid he spend any time trying to get better?
JONESYes. He went into therapy. He, you know, got -- finally got some medicine for the bipolar thing. And in many ways I think when he died I think he was, sort of, on, you know on the upward step because he seemed to be better, you know, then. And the last words he said to me, Diane, he called me and he said -- he called me mouse. He said come on over. He had an apartment. And he said come on over, mouse, let's have a drink together. I said, Jack, I can't do that, you know, I really can't. And he said, you know, we had what dreams were made of. I said I know that. That was the night he died.
REHMHe really was the love of your life.
JONESYeah, but then...
JONES...When I married Marty everybody said you're marrying that crazy man, what's the matter with you, you know, but I married two crazy men. I said to everybody you know what I think I'm the one that's crazy. It's not them.
REHMWhat do you think as far as Marty is concerned? Why were you attracted to him?
JONESHe made me laugh 24 hours a day. And, you know, I never could have been married to the nine to five guy with the pipe and slippers. It's not my type. And I love to laugh and he did it. And still is doing it 35 years later.
REHMBut do you think he's a little nutsy?
JONESYeah, he's mellowed some now.
REHMHow did your kids feel about him?
JONESWell, in the beginning they weren't happy at all.
JONESAnd I had a hard time from that standpoint, you know. Finally, you know, Ryan and Patrick came to the floor and they were fine with him. Shawn still held out for quite -- my oldest, but guess, what this year Easter fell on my birthday, March 31, and Shawn called me and said I'm having a big party for you and my little girl. His youngest is two. It was her birthday. We're going to have an Easter egg hunt. I want Marty to come. I want him to be here.
REHMOh, how wonderful.
JONESIt was -- it's been great ever since.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There's a call here from Birmingham, Ala. Hi, Nancy, you're on the air. Nancy, are you there? Let's try her.
NANCYYes, hi Diane.
NANCYThanks for taking my call.
NANCYIt's an honor to be on and unlike the previous caller I do have to confess that I watched "The Partridge Family" for David, but this...
JONESOh, I see, that's funny.
NANCYThe story that I really wanted to share for you, Ms. Jones, is that my parents were married in 1952 in a wonderful Methodist church in Middletown, Ohio. And at that time my mother requested at the wedding that they play your song, "You'll Never Walk Alone."
NANCYAt the end of the ceremony.
NANCYAnd as the story went the minister actually forbade her from doing that because they weren't allowed to play songs at the wedding.
NANCYBecause it wasn't a traditional religious song.
NANCYAnd so I think my mother carried that in her heart for years and it was always their song, for my parents, and they're still alive. They just celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary.
JONESOh, that's wonderful, congratulations.
REHMSo in honor of that 60th wedding anniversary I've asked Shirley if she would sing a bit of "You'll Never Walk Alone."
JONES(singing) When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm is a golden sky and the sweet silver song of a lark.
JONESOh. After all the talking, it's not as easy.
REHMAnd to you, Nancy, and to your parents happy anniversary.
NANCYThank you so much.
REHMAnd you're most welcome. Shirley, what's next?
JONESWell, as soon as I go home, which is tomorrow, Saturday, I start a movie, believe it or not, a four-day movie. It's a religious movie, going to be shown Christmas Eve and...
JONESYeah, for television, yeah.
REHMWhat's it called?
JONESIt's called, "Miracle on Flight 232."
JONESAnd I play, you know, an older lady that she's going on -- she's going on the plane, but I had been, you know, worked on airplanes for a long time. And this father brings his little girl and he's going to put her on the plane and she's screaming and crying don't leave me, daddy, don't leave me, daddy. And I say I'll take care of her. I'm, you know, I was a hostess on an airplane and I'm going on that plane.
JONESAnd the whole thing is everybody gets on the plane and there are all these different couples. There's an African American couple that are fighting all the time. There's two guys that, you know, are at odds. Everybody's at odds and I'm with this little girl who's screaming. They tell us to get off the plane because they can't take off and it's Christmas Eve.
JONESAnd everybody's still, you know, not happy. And I go out and find this old Christmas tree and I put it up in the airport and I said, OK, everybody has to trim the tree. It's Christmas Eve. And they do it with chewing gum and, you know, Kleenex and everything else. And this little girl has a ring that her father gave her and she loses it. And she says I can't find my ring. The father comes back and said I want to take her home. I don't want her to go on the plane.
JONESShe said, daddy, I can't find the ring and we look all around. And it's in the little cradle of the baby Jesus that we had put down there.
JONESThat's the movie so...
REHMThat's the movie and you also have this wonderful new book.
REHMTitled simply, "Shirley Jones." Thank you so much.
JONESThank you, Diane. It's nice to be with you.
REHMI loved it. And thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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