Oscar: Best Actress–MacLaine, Shirley in Terms of Endearment (1983)

Shirley MacLaine won her first and only Best Actress Oscar at her fifth nomination for the serio-comedy “Terms of Endearment.”

She competed against Debra winger, also nominated for this film, Jane Alexander in “Testament,” Meryl Streep in “Silkwood,” and Julie Walters in “Educating Rita.”

Blending comedy and melodrama, “Terms of Endearment” was basically a TV sitcom expanded to the format of feature-length big screen entertainment. James Brooks’ triple Oscar win, as producer, writer, and director, represented an astonishing achievement, considering that the screenplay had been turned down by several studios in town before Paramount decided to finance it.

In its sentimental tone and traditional view of women, “Terms of Endearment” resembles many old-fashioned, well-made movies of Hollywood’s yesteryear. However, most audiences enjoyed the honest, loving relationship between a possessive mother (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma (Debra Winger).

Especially amusing arethe  romantic and sexual interludes between MacLaine’s middleaged widow and her boozy exastronaut neighbor (Jack Nicholson, who won Supporting Actor Oscar).

The film’s candid view of middle-age sexuality, expressed in the way that Nicholson courted MacLaine, was both refreshing and encouraging. Released at a time when most mainstream Hollywood movies were either action-adventure or teenage fare may explain the acclaim accorded by the Academy and the film’s huge commercial appeal.


Emma Horton (Debra Winger)

Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine)

Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson)

Vernon Dahlart (Danny DeVito)

Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels)

Sam Burns (John Lithgow)

Rosie (Betty King)

Patsy Clark (Lisa Hart Carroll)

Toddy (Huckleberry Fox)

Melanie (Megan Morris)



Running time: 130 Minutes