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Chorus girls (including Shirley MacLaine, upper right) in a scene from the Broadway musical, "Me and Juliet," 1953.
Chorus girls (including Shirley MacLaine, upper right) in a scene from the Broadway musical, Me and Juliet, 1953.Alfred Eisendstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Chorus girls (including Shirley MacLaine, upper right) in a scene from the Broadway musical, "Me and Juliet," 1953.
Shirley MacLaine as Aouda in "Around the World in 80 Days."
Shirley MacLaine performing on the TV show, "Shower of Stars," 1955.
Shirley MacLaine preparing to perform the TV show "Shower of Stars" in 1955.
Shirley MacLaine preparing to perform the TV show "Shower of Stars" in 1955.
Shirley MacLaine with her husband, Steve Parker (center), and an unidentified man on the set of "Shower of Stars," 1955.
Inside the RKO Pantages Theater, home of the Academy Awards, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine and others rehearse in 1958.
Shirley MacLaine poses beside Janet Leigh, 1958.
Hollywood stars acting out LIFE spoof of a Mack Sennet silent film, "Saved at the Altar." Bathing Beauties (L-R): Debbie Reynolds, Shirley MacLaine, Marge Champion, Sheree North, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Lee Remick, Dana Wynter, Joan Collins. Keystone Kops (L-R): Nick Adams, Don Murray, Tommy Sands, Fess Parker, Gower Champion, Buddy Ebsen, James Garner, Paul Newman.
Dean Martin rehearsing a scene with Shirley MacLaine, 1958.
Shirley MacLaine and Lucille Ball backstage during a benefit show for victims of the devastating Isewan Typhoon, 1959.
Shirley MacLaine dancing in a charity show she organized in 1959.
Shirley MacLaine on stage (Bob Hope at right) during the Las Vegas benefit she organized for victims of the Isewan Typhoon, 1959.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev (left) with Shirley MacLaine and his wife, Nina, in Hollywood, 1959.
Director Billy Wilder with Shirley MacLaine during filming of the 1960 movie, "The Apartment," for which she won a Golden Globe and Wilder won three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Comedian Bob Hope (left) with Soupy Sales (second from right) and Shirley MacLaine, their faces covered with remnants of cream pies, 1962.
Shirley MacLaine as the prostitute Irma in Billy Wilder's 1963 film, Irma la Douce.
Shirley MacLaine (playing a Eurasian) with Michael Caine in the heist flick, Gambit, 1966.
Chorus girls (including Shirley MacLaine, upper right) in a scene from the Broadway musical, Me and Juliet, 1953.
Alfred Eisendstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Shirley MacLaine: Classic Photos of a Show Business Legend

Apr 23, 2014

Shirley MacLaine was just 21 when, with her film debut in Hitchcock's 1955 black comedy, The Trouble With Harry, she earned her first movie-acting accolades, including a Golden Globe as the female "New Star of the Year." In the six-plus decades since then, she's won an Oscar (for Terms of Endearment), more Golden Globes, two BAFTAs, an Emmy, an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2013, was honored at the Kennedy Center for her indelible, lifelong contributions to the arts.

She's written numerous best-selling books; remains an advocate for civil rights, women's rights and social justice; and each week on her Independent Expression Radio show she (in the words of her official website) "interviews a new guest on topics ranging from politics, to UFO sightings, to the environment, and more."

Today, at 80 -- she was born April 24, 1934, in Virginia; her younger brother is Warren Beatty -- MacLaine is still performing (Downton Abbey, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Glee) and shows little sign of slowing down. Then again, in light of the life she's led offscreen, slowing down doesn't really seem to be in her nature. For example, she was married to businessman Steve Parker -- with whom she had a daughter, Sachi -- for almost 30 years, but as theirs was an open relationship, MacLaine was free to pursue, and be pursued by, some of the biggest stars of the 20th century. She counts among her many love affairs Hollywood rebel Robert Mitchum; Rat Pack founder and epic carouser Dean Martin; the French actor and singer Yves Montand; and even international political figures like former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Olof Palme, the Swedish Prime Minister who was assassinated in 1986.

Here, on her 80th birthday, LIFE.com pays tribute to the one and only Shirley MacLaine with a series of classic photos highlighting her extraordinary -- and still-thriving -- career, and the charming combination of naïveté and carnality that have defined her appeal for so many, for so long.

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