Named after Shirley Temple, MacLaine was born Shirley MacLean Beaty in Richmond, Virginia’s Bellevue neighborhood, destined to be a star from the beginning, Shirley’s dream was to become a prima ballerina. She took ballet classes fervently all throughout her youth and never missed one, and whenever they performed a piece, she would play the boy’s role, due to being the tallest one there. The summer before her senior year, she went to New York to try acting on Broadway with some success. After she graduated, she went back and within a year she achieved her goal of becoming a star when she became an understudy to actress Carol Haney in The Pajama Game; Haney broke her ankle, and MacLaine replaced her.
A few months after, with Haney still out of commission, director-producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience, took note of MacLaine, and signed her to go to Hollywood to work for Paramount Pictures. She would later sue Wallis over a contractual dispute, a suit that is credited with having ended the old-style studio system of actor management.
Her first film was the Alfred Hitchcock film The Trouble with Harry in 1955. In 1958, she took part in Hot Spell and Around the World in Eighty Days. At the same time, she stared in Some Came Running, this film gave her first Academy Award nomination. She got her second nomination in two years later for The Apartment, one of her most famous film starred with Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder. This film won 5 Oscars, include Best Director. She agained got a nomination for Irma la Douce, once again reunited with Wilder and Lemmon. Yet, Shirley had yet to win the Oscar. Some say she sould have won for her role in 1969’s Sweet Charity but she wasn’t even nominated. Her Oscar would not come until the next decade, but Shirley had made a name for herself in the 60’s and became part of the infamous “Rat Pack” which included, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., after her uncredited role in the Original Ocean’s 11.