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Tribute to Shirley MacLaine: Marcia Gay Harden

Shirley MacLaine received the 2017 KCET Cinema Series Lumière Award, honoring MacLaine’s illustrious career.

by Marcia Gay Harden

LEGENDARY! Congrats Shirley, on yet ANOTHER wonderful award! Though I see you are being honored for “six decades” of work, (why must they say “decades?”) honoring you requires much more than simply talking about your craft. We must equally honor the gypsy in you which brings a life experience to all with whom you work! That hungry attitude you have – demanding all around you to jump in with BOTH feet!

LIVE without fear! Insisting on honesty, loud laughter and bawdy jokes. Having scrappy battles with your character — as if when you first meet her on the page, she is your adversary — you battle her, and poke her, manipulate and mold her, until she is your own. And then — only then when she has passed the test — you caress and love her. “BRING IT” should be painted on your trailer door – for that is what you ask of the cast, crew, and director.

BRING IT! Yes, I can watch you play with a prop for hours, (those socks in “Terms of Endearment!”), I can delight in your coquettish nose wiggle, your sexy dancing ability, or admire that you are always able to inject humor into your characters. I can watch you work, listen to you talk about ALL your lovers, read your books, and glean some wisdom. But no sycophant here. I relish in the example of no holds barred! You have walked without a safety net Shirley, and in doing so, encouraged so many other women to do the same.

EXPERIENCE LIFE — BRING IT! Memories on the film, “Used People,” in Toronto…staring at the backs of Shirley MacLaine, Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates, and Marcello Mastroianni, quaking just a bit, wondering could I bring it like these legends?

And then the redhead legend, Ms. Shirley MacLaine, grabbed my forearm and said “come have some shitty chili with us this weekend at my place… we are all going to sit in a circle and channel.” WHAAAT? Channeling with Shirley MacLaine? Eating chili with Kathy? Smoking Italian cigarettes with Marcello? Breathing the same air as Jessica?

You stared at me. Waiting, twinkling just a bit, and then you did a little gypsy jig. Incongruous and joyful. As if to say: To have a life experience, you must first experience life.

KEEP BRINGING IT, Shirley. Congrats!