From the stage to the screen and several other career ventures beyond the entertainment circle, the Canadian actress Shirley Douglas has continued to focus the spotlight on her career. She is a television, film, and stage actress and activist. She is also known as the ex-wife of actor, and the mother of their twins, and Rachel.
Her father, late politician Tommy Douglas is the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party. As a child, she joined him during campaigns and would continue on his course later on. Her acting career, combined with her family history, has made her a notable figure in the Canadian entertainment industry, as well as national politics.
In a career spanning over six decades, Shirley Douglas appeared in numerous films, TV shows, and stage productions, creating indelible roles such as Canadian suffragette Nellie McClung and American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Some of her popular works include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Stone Angel and the CBC series Wind at My Back. She was honored with the title of Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) in 2003 for her contribution to the performing arts in the country.
Shirley Douglas Bio, Age
The screen legend was born on the 2nd of April 1934 in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada. Her parents, late politician, Scottish-born Canadian statesman Tommy Douglas and Irma May (née Dempsey) named her Shirley Jean Douglas. Her father was also the Premier of Saskatchewan, the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) and the founder of Canada’s Medicare. She was raised alongside her sister, Joan Douglas.
As a child, she enjoyed joining her father on the campaign trail. The spotlight of such events for her was when her father challenged Canadians to make the country a better place for everyone. She would sit, listen and learn from her model, her father. Years later, she would carry on the course her father started.
Shirley Douglas completed her high school education at Central Collegiate Institute (now closed) located in the capital city of Saskatchewan, Regina. She started her acting career in 1950, two years prior to her graduation from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her first performance was in the Regina Little Theatre where she won the best actress award. Following her graduation, she stayed back in England where her career fully took off.
Douglas performed in theatre, television, as well as in films. Before returning to Canada in 1957, she made her film debut with a role in the British-American crime film Joe Macbeth in 1955. She also had a guest appearance in the anthology series Rheingold Theatre that same year.
Following a role in the comedy-drama flick Lolita in the early ’60s, she starred in the movies The Wars, Dead Ringers and Shadow Dancing, all in the 1980s. In the same decade, she also featured in several TV films and series. In the ensuing decades, Shirley Douglas continued to encompass memorable roles on stages and screen in Canada, the United Kingdom, as well as in the United States.
She played a recurring role as Mayor Riley in the Canadian crime drama Street Legal (1990-1991), and five years later, she landed a major role in the TV series Wind at My Back as a prominent feminist in 65 episodes (1996-2001). On the big screen, she perfected a number of roles in projects including The Shower (1992), Mesmer (1994), the grandma in the American children musical adventure, Barney’s Great Adventure (1998). In 2000, Shirley Douglas was in Woman Wanted, The Law of Enclosures, and voiced the narrator in the first ever Franklin movie, Franklin and the Green Knight.
In the latter days of her career, she portrayed the former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the ABC mini-series The Path to 9/11 (2006).
What Shirley Douglas lost in height, she had in excess in talent and intelligence. The stage and screen star may not own a towering physique but her performance and voice do what defies even giants. She is 5′ 2½” (1.59 m) tall.
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Her Family Life
Shirley has been married twice to her countrymen, but unfortunately, both ended in divorce. Her first marriage was to Canadian prairie brewery heir Timothy Emil Sicks. Their relationship timeline is not known but they had a son named Thomas Emil Sicks before going their separate ways.
From her second marriage to Canadian actor, Donald Sutherland, she had twins, Keifer and Rachel Sutherland. They were married from 1966 to 1970.
Shirley Douglas and Activism
Douglas moved to Los Angeles, the United States in 1967 following her second marriage. There, she joined the American Civil Rights Movement, campaigning against the Vietnam War. She also supported the Black Panthers through a fundraising group known as Friends of the Black Panthers which she helped to establish.
In 1969, she was arrested for her activities with the group but was later acquitted after spending five days in jail. She was subsequently forced to leave the USA in 1977.
Notwithstanding, Shirley was and is still willing to spend her social capital on good causes worth fighting for. In Canada, continuing her father’s Medicare course, she’s in favour of the public health care system over privatized care.
Awards and Recognitions
Over the years, Shirley has been recognized and awarded both for her contribution to the performing arts and activism on issues concerning the public.
In 2000, she was honored with the Diamond Award for her volunteerism by the Variety Club, an international charity for children in need. Three years later, she was awarded the title of the Officer of the Order of Canada. Shirley Douglas received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario in 2004.
She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in Toronto in February 2012. the following year, she was honoured with the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) Toronto’s 2013 Award of Excellence.