National Press Club

Actress Shirley Jones embraces role as TV 'grandma', rejects computers

July 28, 2013 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver | HeatherForsgrenWeaver@gmail.com

Shirley Jones reacts to audience questions about her lengthy career in legendary movies and stage productions such as "The Music Man, " Oklahoma", and "Carousel" at a book signing at the National Press Club, July 27, 2013.

Shirley Jones reacts to audience questions about her lengthy career in legendary movies and stage productions such as "The Music Man, " Oklahoma", and "Carousel" at a book signing at the National Press Club, July 27, 2013.

Photo/Image: Marshall H. Cohen

Yes, Shirley Jones is her real name, the actress who shot to fame in Broadway musicals and as the singing TV mom on "The Partridge Family" told the audience at a National Press Club Book Rap on July 26.

Jones, who is touring the United States to promote her book, "Shirley Jones: A Memoir," says she prefers nature to computers and social media, and keeps active with TV appearances, touring and an upcoming 50th anniversary of "The Music Man".

“I don’t even work on a computer. I don’t do any of that. It is boring," Jones said. "I would rather sit out on my porch in Big Bear Lake and feed a coyote and have a Martini and eat some chocolate."

NPC member Joe Luchok of the Club's Book & Author Committee, who interviewed Jones for the audience, asked Jones to catch her fans up on what she's doing now.

“What am I not doing now?” was Jones’ quick reply.

In addition to touring for her memoir, she has a movie coming out soon and still appears on television, she said.

“I’m on every major television show as grandma,” she added.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Music Man”, she is preparing for a concert tour being produced by her son, Patrick. Her son will play the lead, Professor Harold Hill, and Jones said she'll reprise her original film role as Marian Paroo, the librarian.

“I’ll tell stories about the movie and show film clips and tell that I was pregnant with him all during the filming of “The Music Man,” Jones said.

Jones is best known for her starring roles in the Rogers & Hammerstein musicals “Oklahoma!” and “Carousel.” To get the actress to screen test for the movie version of Oklahoma, Rogers & Hammerstein put her under personal contract. Jones became the “the one and only. The first person ever to be put under contract to Rogers & Hammerstein,” she said.

March 31 is a significant day, Jones said, noting that “Oklahoma!” opened on Broadway in 1943 on that day and her first Broadway show, “South Pacific” opened on that day in 1953. It is also her birthday. She was born in 1934.

Jones won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1960 for the movie, “Elmer Gantry.” It was a big departure from the musical roles she was associated with but when Hollywood had soured on musicals, she knew her career was “virtually over” if she did not try different types of roles.

Since most movies were not shot in Hollywood and Jones wanted to stay close to her three children, Jones opted for television even though she was warned by her manager to not “do a television series because if it is successful, you will be cast and your career will be in the toilet and they were right about that.” She rejected the advice and played the mother, Shirley Partridge, on the wildly popular show, “The Partridge Family.”

Jones grew up in Smithton, Penn., near Pittsburgh. She still has friends from the third grade, she said. She was married to Jack Cassidy, the father of her three children, for 18 years and she has been married to Marty Ingels for 35 years.