Have you met Miss Jones?
an interview with Shirley Jones

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In a career spanning more than 50 years, Shirley Jones established herself as a multi-faceted performer, starring on stage, screen and television. Although she is perhaps best remembered as the mother in the 1960s TV hit  “The Partridge Family,” Jones is an Academy Award-winning actress and singer who starred in such classic films as “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “The Music Man” and “Elmer Gantry.”

Jones and the 32-piece Hollywood Concert Orchestra come to Milwaukee March 5 to perform “A Night at the Oscars,” a salute to the greatest music composed for and used in Hollywood films.  The one-night event is being staged at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Center for Arts and Performance, 8815 W.  Wisconsin St.

WiG spoke with Jones in mid-February.

Gregg Shapiro: Where do you keep your Oscar?

Shirley Jones: I keep my Oscar on a pedestal in my living room. The first thing that you see when you come in the front door is my Oscar.

GS: So it’s something you’re proud of.

SJ: I’m very proud of it.

GS: Are you planning to watch this year’s Oscars on March 7?

SJ: I hope I can. I think I’m still going to be on the road when they’re on. I don’t finish the tour until March 15.

GS: Are there nominated movies that you are rooting for?

SJ: Well, you know I vote, because I’m a member of the Academy. “The Hurt Locker,” to me, was brilliant. “The Blind Side” was brilliant. “Inglorious Basterds” was brilliant. I did a lot of voting this year. I loved “Brothers.” I thought Tobey Maguire’s performance in that was just brilliant.

GS: You have appeared in classic movie musicals such as “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel” and “The Music Man.” What do you think of the current state of the movie musical?

SJ: I thought “Nine” was a wonderful stage musical when I saw it in New York. But I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the film, and I don’t know why. I thought the performances were wonderful and that everything was done well. But I just didn’t find it exciting as a movie.

GS: What about other recent movie musicals such as “Dreamgirls” or “Hairspray”?

SJ: I loved “Dreamgirls.” I thought that was great! I loved “Hairspray.” I thought (Travolta) was wonderful.

GS: In addition to singing during your upcoming concert tour, you will be conducting a Q&A session with the audience.

SJ: Yes. I also have an eight-minute series of film clips that I’m showing, with me kissing every leading man known to man in the movies (laughs). Talking about that and talking about accepting the Oscar and that kind of thing. And doing a bit of a Q&A. I do a lot of speaking as well as singing. In the speaking engagements, I do a lot of Q&A stuff, which I love doing.

GS: What were some of the most memorable questions?

SJ: “Why did you marry Marty Ingalls?”

GS: No!

SJ: (Laughs) Yes!

GS: How do you answer something like that?

SJ: He makes me laugh. And after 33 years he’s still making me laugh. What can I tell you?

GS: You are also very well-known for being a TV mom—Shirley Partridge on “The Partridge Family.” Do you have a favorite among the current TV moms?

SJ: To be very honest, I don’t think I’ve seen any of them. I watch very little television. I’m a big movie fan, and I’m addicted to Turner Classic Movies. I love motion pictures. But I can’t say I have a favorite because I don’t watch (TV) enough.

GS: In addition to being a TV mom, you are the mother of children in show business.

SJ: Yes, I am (laughs). I had hoped and wished that they would have gone another route. Now, of course, they’re basically successful and wonderful guys. I couldn’t be happier as a mom. I’m very proud. But I wanted some college graduates. I didn’t graduate from college. My husband, their father, didn’t graduate from college. And none of them did! I said, “Please can I have one college graduate?”

I now have two grandchildren that are college graduates, so that’s done it. But show business is very difficult, and I didn’t want them to have to go through it. Because when you’re out of work, you’re out of work. It’s just not easy. It’s harder today than it ever was. At least when I was beginning, I could go in the chorus or do this or that. The economy was different and all of that. But today, it’s very tough. But I’m happy that they’re basically successful.

GS: One of your sons, Patrick, played a gay character in the movie “Longtime Companion.” Are you aware of your own gay fans?

SJ: Oh, yes, very much so. Absolutely! I love it! Broadway, the audiences on Broadway are mostly gay. It’s incredible. And the producers and the writers; just about all of Broadway. And it’s fantastic! The feeling and the empathy that they have for actors and performers is extraordinary. I’m all for it. I think they’re great people!

Shirley Jones appears with the Hollywood Concert Orchestra  March 5 at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Center for Arts and Performance, 8815 W. Wisconsin St. Call the WLC box office at 414-443-8802 or visit wlc.edu/arts.

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