Tuesday, August 13, 2013

C'mon She's Happy

Happy – This is something Shirley Jones seems to have remained for her entire life, even while married to the scoundrel (I use that word based on her writings), Jack Cassidy.

Shirley Jones: A Memoir is another autobiography that starts off promising.  Tales of her childhood in Pennsylvania are charming. Her grandfather founded The Jones Brewery Co that produced Stoney’s Beer.  Legend has it the name came from a dog that Shirley’s grandfather loved. When the dog died, he took the nickname Stoney.  She was a troublemaker, lover of the outdoors and animals.  She thought she would be a veterinarian. She took singing lessons.  She was Miss Pittsburgh in 1952 and received a two years scholarship to drama school.  She never made it to college. 

On a trip to New York with her parents, she called an old friend who told her about a Rodgers and Hammerstein casting director holding an open audition at the St James Theatre that same day.   With no Broadway experience, she auditioned.  That casting director, John Fearnley was so impressed that he had Richard Rodgers come to hear her.  “I cringe with embarrassment at how quickly and easily everything unfolded for me.  It was as if a magician had waved his wand and effortlessly raised the curtain on my career.”  In that first audition Rodgers said to her “Miss Jones, we would like to make you an offer.”  It was for a spot in the chorus of South Pacific.  A year later she’s Laurey Williams in the film version of Oklahoma.

She becomes a Hollywood darling, who enjoyed playing against typecast, taking on a sultry role when offered.  While on a European tour of Oklahoma, she meets her Waterloo (her words), Jack Cassidy.  She’s warned about his philandering, but can’t resist his charm. He’s still married to Evelyn Ward (David Cassidy’s mother), but that ends and Shirley and Jack tie the knot. She achieves fame and her story starts to reveal itself in print, like way too many others.  If it's not drugs (and in her case it isn't), it's trivial gossip.  She offers a little too much information: sex, more sex and the size of her husband and stepson’s anatomy.  David’s brothers nicknamed him donkey.  Did we need to know that? Why am I repeating it? Unfortunately, this will remain in my brain until I die. 

Shirley and David
The touching and revealing parts of the book surprisingly belong to her relationship with David Cassidy.  When she first married Jack, she stayed out of his relationship (or lack of) with his son.  David slowly warmed to her and she fondly refers to him as her son.  Shirley loved working with him on the Partridge Family.  She took the role after turning down the part of Carol on the Brady Bunch. She wanted to do more than pull a roast out of the oven.  Shirley Partridge was a working mom. 

This book would have been a gem if she delved into her craft and how she developed it with virtually no acting experience. She was the only person under personal contract with Rodgers and Hammerstein.  When she talks about life on the set of the Partridge Family, it’s interesting.  I got bored very quickly with stories of Jack’s infidelity.  (She finally leaves Jack, when she thinks he is a danger to their sons.)  I’m sure publishers are keen on getting the gossip.  I’m not sure if it still sells books to tell all and then some.  One thing that is almost absent from this book is drug/alcohol abuse.  Jack was an alcoholic and that’s basically what cause his death, but she wasn’t and it was refreshing not to be belabored with those tales.  

At 79, Shirley still continuously works. I loved her on Drew Carey’s show.  She looks fantastic and has a successful marriage to the irrepressible comedian Marty Ingles.  Staying sane in Hollywood is not easy.  C’mon get happy:  Shirley’s there. 

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