I recently finished reading Shirley Jones’s autobiography, Shirley Jones: A Memoir, which was published last year by Gallery Books. Wendy Leigh has co-author credit, and it does read like Shirley Jones is having a conversation. The tone is quite informal — and boy, does Shirley Jones pack a punch with her stories! There are definitely some shocker moments in this book, as her on-screen image was quite goody two-shoes. But Ms. Jones is quite clear that she was a spitfire from the beginning! (And it’s even caused some controversy, as one particular scene apparently angered Joan Collins.)
One of my favorite stories was one she revealed about the making of The Music Man, in which she played “Marian the Librarian” in the classic 1962 film. Shirley refers to the character of Marian as a “truly liberated woman,” although I would argue that liberation is the arc of Marian’s character; it’s where she ends up, but not where the starts out. “Marian the Librarian” is the classic Liberated Librarian character type. While filming, Shirley Jones discovered that she was pregnant (with her son Patrick), and she eventually had to be shot from the waist up. By the time the big romantic scene in the film came along, Shirley Jones was heavily pregnant. Here’s how she describes the scene:
Robert Preston and I were standing on the footbridge, shooting the most romantic scene in The Music Man, in which he sand “Till There Was You” to me, and he was holding me extremely tight against his chest. As he kissed me passionately — the only kiss that took place between us during the movie — his eyes were closed. All of a sudden, the baby in my stomach gave an almighty kick!
Bob practically passed out in shock. Then he straightened up and gave me a quizzical look.
“That was Patrick Cassidy,” I said by way of explanation.
Years later, Patrick Cassidy then went to visit Robert Preston on Broadway:
After the show, Patrick went backstage and was escorted to Bob’s dressing room. He held his hand out to Bob. “My name is Patrick Cassidy.”
Robert Preston took three steps back. “Oh, no! We’ve already met.”