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It is public knowledge that the entertainment industry is home to many and as a result, not many make as much of an impact as they would like. However, Shirley Booth is one of the talented few that the industry will not forget in a hurry, if ever.
Shirley Booth is an acclaimed performer, an award-winning actress and a seasoned theatrical veteran who appeared on Broadway from 1925 till 1970. She was a highly regarded stage actress and is ranked as one of the premier talents of the 20th-century theatre.
Shirley Booth – Biography
Shirley Booth was born on August 30, 1898, in New York City. Though her birth name is Majory Ford, she was listed as ‘Thelma Booth Ford’ during the 1905 New York state census. The iconic actress was born to Virginia Ford and Albert James. Shirley, who had a younger sister named Jean, spent her early childhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn.
The family eventually moved to Philadelphia which became a turning point for the New York-born actress. Not many people know exactly what they want to become in life until they are much older but Shirley Booth knew she wanted to become an actress when she was about seven years old. This flair began to develop after she saw a stage performance when her family arrived in Philadelphia.
Her family then moved to Hartford, Connecticut when she was a teenager; there, she got involved in summer stock, a theatre that only presents its stage productions in the summer. The actress made her debut on stage in a production of Mother Carey’s Chickens and thereafter, dropped out of school against her father’s wishes. She was initially professionally known as Thelma Booth, but her father forbade her to use the family name professionally so she changed it to ‘Shirley Booth.’
As with most iconic celebrities, Booth’s acting career began when she was a teenager. She made her debut on Broadway on January 26, 1925, in the play, Hell’s Bells. The actress then began to attract attention on a large scale in the comedy hit Three Men on a Horse where she played the female lead. The show ran from 1935 to 1937, increasing her popularity.
As a testament to her acting capability, she then appeared in numerous dramas, comedies, and musicals between the 1930s and 1940s, including landing roles in The Philadelphia Story (1939), My Sister Eileen and Tomorrow the World. Proving to be as versatile as ever, in 1941, Booth delved into radio productions by starring in the radio series Duffy’s Tavern from 1941 to 1942 and on NBC Blue from 1942 to 1943.
In 1952, she made her film debut playing the role as Lola Delaney again in the Hollywood adaptation of Come Back, Little Sheba. For her portrayal of the character, she received the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1953.
Shirley Booth eventually went on to land more film roles including playing Leona Samish in the play The Time of Cuckoo and Mrs. Leslie in the show About Mrs. Leslie. In Juno, she played a sad character which left her fans a bit disappointed as they had wanted to see her play a comic role.
The versatile actress then made her entry into Television with Hazel, the American sitcom. The show ran from 1961 till 1965. In 1966, she featured in The Glass Menagerie which earned her a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Her appearances, however, became less frequent in the 1970s.
Shirley Booth successfully made her debut into the film industry in her fifties, an incredibly difficult thing to do. She even went on to win an Academy Award for her debut role. She, however, had to lie about her age to get the role, shaving about ten years off. Her actual age was only made known after her death.
In 1948, for her performance as Grace Woods in Goodbye My Fancy, Shirley Booth received her first Tony Award; she then received her second Tony for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Lola Delaney in Come Back, Little Sheba in 1950. As previously mentioned, she received an Academy Award for reprising her role as Lola in the film adaptation. This made Shirley Booth become the first actress ever to win both a Tony and an Oscar for the same role, which she achieved in 1953. She also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama and Best Actress Award at Cannes Film Festival for the role.
Further along in her career, she was awarded a motion pictures star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In November 1979, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.
Cause Of Death
In an uncommon move, Shirley Booth completely retired from acting in 1974 to North Chatham, Massachusetts where she lived with her pets and spent her time painting and doing needlework. Sadly, her health began to decline by the 1980s and she suffered a stroke. The stroke affected her sight and mobility and she eventually died on October 16, 1992, in North Chatham.