Oscar Actors: Jones, Shirley–Prostitute in Elmer Gantry

In 1960, the two female Oscar Awards were given to actresses who played prostitutes: Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8 and Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry.

Jones was born March 31, 1934 in Smithton, Pennsylvania.

A former Miss Pittsburgh, then a musical comedy star, Jones became typecast in films as a sweet, wholesome young lady.

She appeared on the stage, on TV, and in nightclubs with her onetime husband, the singer Jack Cassidy. She costarred with her stepson, David Cassidy, in the TV series “The Partridge Family” (1970 74) and later starred in “Shirley Miller” (1979-80).

Jones was recruited to Hollywood from the Broadway stage, having established herself as a singer. At first, she played shy, romantic ingenues in musicals such as “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “April Love”).

However, only when Shirley Jones changed her image, playing Lulu Bains, the good-hearted prostitute in Richard Brooks’ Elmer Gantry, she earned the Academy’s recognition with a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

“I am sick of portraying ingenues with sunny dispositions, high necklines, and puffy sleeves, who are girlishly aggressive about happiness being just around the corner,” Jones had complained.

Oscar Alert

In 1960, Shirley Jones competed for (and won) the Best Supporting Actress Oscar with Glynis Johns in “The Sundowners,” Shirley Knight in “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” Janet Leigh in “Psycho,” and Mary Ure in “Sons and Lovers.”