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About Shirley

Movies, Television and Broadway

Artists and Models

Paramount 1955

Arriving in Hollywood to finish The Trouble With Harry, I bought a second-hand green Buick for forty five dollars on credit, and headed for the beach at Malibu. I leased a tiny one-bedroom apartment set on high pilings that shook with each wave that crashed beneath it.

All my money had been spent in New York, paying off debts and my trip to the land of make-believe. To make matters worse when The Trouble With Harry was released it was an artistic success, subtle in its humor, but not commercial. I faired slightly better in the reviews. I was hailed as the kooky young discovery or the kooky young star. For the fan magazines and gossip columnists, I was fresh copy.

"She lives in a one room shack at the beach. She doesn't own a formal dress or a piece of fur. Sometimes the cop at the gate turns her away in the morning, saying 'the casting calls are filled for the day'."

But, nothing could have been worse than my first film under contract to Hal Wallis. I was to be the little girl who ran up the stairs in a little sun suit, or a bat suit, while Jerry Lewis chased me.

The film, Artists and Models, with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis became a learning experience - not about acting - but about life and two human beings much different than how they presented themselves to be in those zany comedies. In private Dean was the funny one. Jerry was a mechanical genius whose state of the art electronics filled his dressing room.

When Dean and Jerry entered the studio commissary, a mundane lunch break became sheer chaos. They started food fights with actors, cast and crew. Once Marlene Dietrich was the ungrateful recipient of a lunch plate. One day, they walked in and cut off the ties of the studio heads and smeared butter on their faces. When they were around it was pure bedlam and everyone laughed until they cried at the crazy antics of America's favorite comics.

I came to understand what technique was about in terms of straight man versus comic. I could see the importance of leaving talented people alone; leaving the talent unbridled to seek its own level of brilliance. Stars like Dean and Jerry were very sensitive to little things and I learned what artistic temperament was all about.

When they weren't performing, the tension around the set was awful. I didn't know what was going on in their lives or what the change was about, but I could sense that something was winding down in that great partnership. After Artists and Models they did one more film together. Hollywood or Bust was their last picture together.

This film introduced me to Dean Martin. We went on to make five movies together and he became the leading man that I appeared with most. He became my lifelong friend and protector.

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Shirley in Artists and Models
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