Shirley Douglas

Shirley Douglas
Born Shirley Jean Douglas
(1934-04-02) April 2, 1934
Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada
Occupation Actress, activist
Years active 1955—present
Spouse(s) Timothy Emil Sicks
Donald Sutherland (1966–70)
Children Thomas Emil Sicks
Kiefer Sutherland
Rachel Sutherland

Shirley Jean Douglas, OC (born April 2, 1934) is a Canadian television, film and stage actress and activist. Her acting career combined with her family name has made her recognizable in Canadian film, television and national politics.

Personal life

Douglas was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, the daughter of Irma May (née Dempsey) and Tommy Douglas (1904–86), the late Scottish-born Canadian statesman and Premier of Saskatchewan. She attended high school at Central Collegiate Institute (now closed) in Regina. She is the mother of three children: Thomas Emil Sicks from her first marriage and twins Rachel Sutherland and Kiefer Sutherland from her second marriage to Canadian actor Donald Sutherland (1966–70).

Acting work

Douglas's acting career began in 1950 with a role in the Regina Little Theatre entry at the Dominion Drama Festival,[1] where she won the best actress award. In 1952 Shirley graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and stayed in England for several years, performing for theatre and television, before returning to Canada in 1957. She is not to be confused with the child actress who appeared in Gone with the Wind, the Wizard of Oz, and Show Boat.

She continues to act; and her career since then has encompassed several memorable roles on stages in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. She has portrayed prominent feminist Nellie McClung, family matriarch and business woman May Bailey in the television series Wind at My Back, Hagar Shipley in Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel, and even characters in popular science fiction series like The Silver Surfer and Flash Gordon. In 1997, Douglas appeared on stage with her son Kiefer Sutherland at the Royal Alexandra Theatre and at the National Arts Centre in The Glass Menagerie. In 2000, she performed on stage in The Vagina Monologues. In 2006, she portrayed former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in the ABC mini-series The Path to 9/11.

In 2003, for her contributions to the performing arts, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.


Douglas moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967 after marrying actor Donald Sutherland. She became involved in the American Civil Rights Movement, the campaign against the Vietnam War, and later on behalf of immigrants and women. She helped establish the fundraising group "Friends of the Black Panthers". In 1969, she was arrested in Los Angeles, for Conspiracy to Possess Unregistered Explosives, after she allegedly attempted to purchase hand grenades for the Black Panthers. She claimed that the FBI was trying to frame her and spent five days in jail [3]. Subsequently, the U.S. government denied her a work permit based on this incident. Douglas, by then divorced from Sutherland, was forced to leave the U.S. in 1977. She and her three children moved to Toronto.

As the daughter of Tommy Douglas, who brought Medicare to Canada, she has also been one of Canada's most prominent activists in favour of the publicly funded health care system over privatized care. In the Canadian federal election, 2006, Douglas campaigned on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party. In 2012, she supported Brian Topp for that party's leadership.



Year Title Role Notes
1955 Joe MacBeth Patsy
1962 Lolita Mrs. Starch
1983 Wars, TheThe Wars Mrs. Lawson
1988 Dead Ringers Laura
1988 Shadow Dancing Nicole
1992 Passage of the Heart Katherine Ward
1992 Shower, TheThe Shower Marie
1994 Mesmer Duchess DuBarry
1998 Barney's Great Adventure Grandma
2000 Woman Wanted Peg
2000 Law of Enclosures, TheThe Law of Enclosures Myra
2000 Franklin and the Green Knight Narrator Video


Year Title Role Notes
1955 Rheingold Theatre Molly Gaines Episode: "The Long White Line"
1978 Nellie McClung Nellie McClung TV film
1982 Hangin' In Mrs. Ricardo Episode: "Barnum and Baby"
1985 Turning to Stone Lena TV film
1986 Loose Ends Elder Seth's Wife TV film
1987 Really Weird Tales Edna Besley TV film
1989 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Monica Logan Episode: "Driving Under the Influence"
1990–1991 Street Legal Mayor Riley Recurring role (4 episodes)
1992 Road to Avonlea Miss Cavendish Episode: "High Society"
1992 Hat Squad, TheThe Hat Squad Episode: "Pilot"
1993 Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story Vivian Karney TV film
1995 Redwood Curtain Schyler Noyes TV film
1995 Johnny's Girl Mrs. Hardwick TV film
1996 Flash Gordon (voice) TV series
1996-2001 Wind at My Back May Bailey Main role (65 episodes)
1998 Silver Surfer Infectia TV series
1998–2000 Franklin Narrator 20
1999 Shadow Lake TV film
2000 House Divided, AA House Divided Elizabeth Dickson TV film
2001 Made in Canada Cybill Thornbush Episode: "Beaver Creek Commercials"
2002 Christmas Shoes, TheThe Christmas Shoes Ellen Layton TV film
2005 Robson Arms Pauline Dubois Recurring role (4 episodes)
2005 Corner Gas Peg Episode: "Trees a Crowd"
2006 Path to 9/11, TheThe Path to 9/11 Madeleine Albright TV film
2008 Degrassi: The Next Generation Professor Dunwoody Episode: "Bust a Move: Part 1"



  1. Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
  2. "Shirley Douglas 2004 Inductee". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009.


Further reading

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