Last Thursday, Hollywood came out to honor one its most beloved and enduring stars – Shirley MacLaine with the 40th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award. She is only the 7th woman to receive the honor. The other women to receive the honor were Bette Davis in 1977; Lillian Gish in 1984; Barbara Stanwyck in 1987; Elizabeth Tayor in 1993; Barbra Streisand in 2001; Meryl Streep in 2004.
She’s done everything. She started out as a dancer on Broadway and replaced Carol Haney in The Pajama Game and was signed to a Hollywood contract following her star making performance.
She’s been in some amazing classics like The Apartment, The Turning Point, Sweet Charity and The Children’s Hour based on the play by Lillian Hellman. She finally won an Academy Award in 1983 after five nominations for Terms of Endearment. Her post Oscar career has been just as stellar with films including Steel Magnolias, Postcards from the Edge, and the undervalued In Her Shoes. And she is not slowing down at all. If you look at her imdb page she has about five films in pre-production. She recently filmed an episode for the third season of Downton Abbey where she will play Cora’s (Elizabeth McGovern) mother.
And don’t forget, she’s also been a political activist her whole career even campaigning for George McGovern in 1972.
In a fully star studded evening where MacLaine included only women at her table – co-stars like Sally Field, Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts as well a Meryl Streep. In her speech MacLaine acknowledged the women by saying they were “my other half of the sky and my sustained belief that you women will make the world a better place.”
Streep ended the tribute by saying this about MacLaine:
She likes difficult women like I do. She likes prickly women. Shirley, you cut the path for all of us. You have done all of your greatest work in what we call middle age. You are writing the template on how to create a lasting career.