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Marty Ingels is getting the last laugh. As last laughs go, it’s a rather expensive one — right around $225,000 all told, he estimates — but it turns out that the most financially costly one-man campaign in awards season history has paid off for Ingels’ wife of 29 years, Shirley Jones, beyond anything he could have fathomed.
This is why when you pick up this paper tomorrow, on Page 3 you will see a full-page ad thanking the Screen Actors Guild for nominating Jones for female actor in a TV movie or miniseries for her supporting role in the Hallmark Channel film “Hidden Places.”
The ad itself is rather revealing in what it says about the Ingels-Jones union: There’s Shirley, front and center with her arm around a very large dog. Ingels is off to the side, far smaller. He’s squatting inside a cage. “It needs to be clear that I’m the nut husband,” explains Ingels, 70, in a phone interview.
The Cliff’s Notes version of this little tale would be this: Ingels is determined (far more than is his wife, he admits) to revive the career of an actress, now 72, who won an Oscar for 1960’s “Elmer Gantry” and who had a good run as America’s golden-throated sweetheart in acclaimed screen versions of musicals including “Carousel” and “The Music Man.” But she’s best known to Baby Boomers as Shirley Partridge from TV’s “The Partridge Family” in the early 1970s.
“Shirley’s movie career was over, and no one except her husband seemed to remember she even had that dimension,” emphasizes Ingels, a savvy, flamboyant businessman whose own modest acting career peaked in the short-lived early 1960s comedy “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster.” “I was determined that she wouldn’t die being known mostly as Mrs. Partridge.”
And so, after Jones landed a serious, though hardly lead, role in “Hidden Places,” Ingels transformed himself into a one-man marketing machine to get it noticed by Emmy voters. He took out multiple ads in the trades, shipped out thousands of opulently packaged DVD screeners of his wife’s performance, and peppered journalists with flowers, candy, balloons and blustery phone calls — all to the tune of more than $150,000.
“Spending all of that money kept me one step away from divorce papers for a couple of months,” Ingels admits.
But it worked. Jones was nominated for supporting actress in a movie/miniseries. The fact she ultimately lost to Kelly MacDonald for HBO’s “The Girl in the Cafe” mattered little to Ingels, who called the nom “a miracle” — albeit one fashioned less by God’s hand than good ol’ fashioned American greenbacks.
Then it happened again with the SAG Awards. This time, Ingels limited his financial damage to a $6,000 screener mailing to voting members. “It was a (frigging) coup,” he believes. “This nomination was in a category with huge stars like Helen Mirren and Annette Bening. It isn’t that Shirley isn’t a genuine, absolute icon and beloved person. She is. But for this, I have to take a lot of the credit.”
No one is about to argue with the man, either, even if it might supply evidence — with all due respect to the immensely talented Jones — that these nominations can be more about commerce than commemoration.
“You know,” Ingels offers, “I prefer to look at it as the triumph of public relations and intelligent, effective advertising — and also what can happen when a hyperkinetic, bipolar Jew from New York loves his wife with every ounce of his soul.”
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