See Partridge Family Mom Shirley Jones Now at 87
Her career has spanned over seven decades, and it's showing no signs of stopping.
Shirley Jones will forever be remembered as one of the most iconic TV moms in history: Shirley Partridge from the musical sitcom series The Partridge Family. Yet outside of that role, Jones has had no shortage of other achievements throughout her 70-year career in Hollywood. The actress has starred in scores of films and TV series, and even won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1960. Read on to see the talented actress now at 87!
Jones's Hollywood career has spanned seven decades.
Jones began acting in 1950, 20 years before The Partridge Family aired. After appearing in a handful of TV shows, she got her first big break in 1955 starring in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical film, Oklahoma!. She would later appear in several other musicals, including The Music Man and Carousel.
Though her most famous role was on the small screen as Shirley Partridge, Jones has shared that the highlight of her career was her Oscar-winning role as Lulu Bains in the 1960 movie Elmer Gantry. "It changed the course of my career—I wouldn't have had the longevity that I've had [without it]. My career was really over as far as movies [before that role]," the actress said in a 2005 interview with the Television Academy Foundation.
Jones had several other high-profile roles throughout the course of her career, including in the films Bedtime Story, April Love, and Fluffy, among others. However, after appearing on Partridge, she says her film opportunities became more limited. "The problem with Partridge—though it was great for me and gave me an opportunity to stay home and raise my kids—when my agents came to me and presented it to me, they said if you do a series and it becomes a hit show, you will be that character for the rest of your life and your film career will go into the toilet, which is what happened," she said in a 2009 interview with The Vancouver Sun.
Jones explains that later in her career, she turned to made-for-TV movies to break out of her more typecast roles—and that these were ultimately some of her favorite projects.
Jones says she's actually very different from Shirley Partridge.
To many, Shirley Partridge represented an ideal mother figure, and fans connected deeply with the character. Though widowed, the matriarch managed to exude fun and charisma all while being the sole provider to her five children.
However, Jones says that she always feels the need to remind fans that the show was fiction. In reality, she says, no mother is perfect. "This is a television show, this is not real life. There was a lot of Shirley Partridge that was me, but there's also a lot that wasn't," she told the Television Academy Foundation. "A lot of kids said, 'I grew up with you, and I wanted my mom to be just like you and I wanted to come and live with you and be in the band," she recalled. "It's nice, but I always felt sorry for these kids because obviously there's something lacking in their life," Jones added.
Still, the actress says she's always understood the appeal and endurance of the show, which still holds a place in the heart of fans. "They don't make television shows like that anymore, and I think the public itself is hungry for that kind of television. That's why TV Land does well when they show the shows again like The Brady Bunch and Partridge and all the wonderful shows of the '70s. Because there's not much like that to watch for a family on television today. The major channels just don't have it," she said.
She shared why the show ended so soon despite its popularity.
The Partridge Family ran for four seasons, from 1970 until 1974 before the series wrapped. "It was the beginning of a new kind of television," recalled Jones of the show's end. "We were going to be opposite All in the Family and as you and I both know, that was a very different kind of family. I mean, that was the beginning of reality television… they just felt that we couldn't compete," she said.
Jones says the popularity of the leading actors also contributed to the decision to end the series. "I think David at this point in time had had it on the show. I think David wanted to go out and do his own thing," she said, referring to her co-star and stepson, David Cassidy. "He was now a big, big teen idol and he wanted to go out and do more concerts. He wanted to do a different kind of music than just The Partridge Family kind of music. They made the decision with those two things in mind," Jones explained.
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For Jones, entertainment is a family affair.
Besides famously co-starring with her stepson, whose father is her then-husband Tony Award winning actor Jack Cassidy, Jones went on to have three more sons—Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan Cassidy—all of whom grew up to work in entertainment.
Shaun Cassidy, a producer and musician, has opened up about the way his family's fame influenced how he felt about his own. "By the time I became successful at 18, three other people in my family had already been wildly successful," Cassidy told Page Six in 2021. "My father was a matinee idol on Broadway, my mother was an Academy Award winner at 24 and David was a very big pop star. I kind of witnessed all of this, so by the time it happened to me, no part of my identity was invested in it lasting or ever being successful," he said.
Even Jones seems to take her fame with a grain of salt. When asked about the secret to her success, the actress shared that she attributes her accolades to "being at the right place at the right time, and having a gift." Now 87, the actress is still producing new work, and has shown no signs of stopping any time soon.