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Shelley Long Biography


Home > Actresses > L > Long, Shelley > Biography


Birth Name: Shelley Long
Born: 08/23/1949
Birth Place: Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA


Born on Aug. 23, 1949 in Fort Wayne, IN, Long was an only child raised by her father, Leland, a rubber industry worker-turned-teacher, and her mother, Evandine, also a school teacher. Courting an early interest in performing, the future star was active on her high school speech team, winning national recognition. In 1967, she enrolled in Chicago's Northwestern University as a drama major, but dropped out to pursue acting and modeling full time. It was in the Windy City that she joined the ground-breaking Second City comedy troupe, where Long wrote, produced and co-hosted a local show called "Sorting it Out" for the Chicago NBC affiliate that won three local Emmys for Best Entertainment Show during its three-year run. She broke into acting in feature films with the forgettable drama, "A Small Circle of Friends" (1980), starring Karen Allen and Brad Davis. Taking a sharp detour, Long followed up with a lead role in the Ringo Starr camp comedy "Caveman" (1981), a project notable for nothing other than introducing the former Beatle to his future wife, Barbara Bach.

Undeterred, Long finally gained some real recognition when she memorably portrayed a hooker with the proverbial heart of gold in Ron Howard's directing debut, "Night Shift" (1982) opposite Henry Winkler and Michael Keaton. As Belinda Keaton, she was surprisingly appealing despite heavy eye make-up and the bottle blonde crimped hairdo she sported throughout the film. Now on a hot streak, she followed up with the comedy "Losin' It" (1983), one of the first movie roles for its young up-and-coming star, Tom Cruise. In the film, about a group of teenage boys' quest for a good time on a trip to Mexico, Long was a woman seeking a divorce who finds herself on the road with the rowdy crew. But it was on the small screen that Long received the biggest break of her career, where she was cast to play barmaid Diane Chambers on the Boston-set sitcom, "Cheers' (NBC, 1982-1993). Long's Diane was portrayed as upper class and erudite, standing in stark contrast to bar regulars like Norm (George Wendt) and Cliff (John Ratzenberger) as well as fellow employees Carla (Rhea Perlman), Coach (Nicholas Colasanto) and bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson).

For five seasons, Long played Diane Chambers to great appeal and fanfare, particularly in regard to her chemistry with Danson which propelled the show to the top of the ratings with their will-they-won't-they romance. Over those five seasons, Long received four Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and won a the award in 1983, the first year she was nominated. At the same time she triumphed on the small screen, Long's film career finally began to blossom. In 1984, she earned award recognition for her turn as a would-be writer who buries her ambitions when she marries another writer (Ryan O'Neal) whose own career takes off in "Irreconcilable Differences" (1984). Following that success, she starred opposite Tom Hanks in the critically maligned, but commercially successful comedy "The Money Pit" (1986) and maintained her box office appeal alongside Bette Midler in the hit comedy, "Outrageous Fortune" (1987). But with her film career in full swing and "Cheers" at the height of its popularity, Long decided to leave the show in 1987 to concentrate on features full time. Fans of Sam and Diane were disappointed and rumors swirled that her cast mates were not happy with her decision. But she was undeterred and after a tearful goodbye - when Diane backed out of her engagement to Sam - Long's days as "Cheers" series regular were over.

Expectations were high after she left her sitcom and Long failed to live up to them. Her first post-sitcom project, "Troop Beverly Hills," (1989) was a misguided effort that became a critical and commercial dud. With critics of her departure from "Cheers" relishing the failure, the actress suddenly found her popularity waning as she starred in other disasters like "Don't Tell Her It's Me" (1990) and "Frozen Assets" (1992). While Long was experiencing high-profile setbacks, her replacement Kirstie Alley, who played new bar manager Rebecca Howe, was welcomed by the cast, critics and fans as a more-than-suitable replacement for Diane Chambers. Although her departure from the show was rumored to have been less than amicable, Long returned for the highly-rated series finale in 1993, earning another Emmy nod - this time as a guest star - for reprising the pretentious Chambers. She would go on to play her iconic role again in several episodes of the popular spin-off "Frasier" (NBC, 1993-2004), which starred Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane, one of Diane's former suitors.

In an attempt to rescue her flagging career, Long chose to take on playing the 1970s most iconic mom, Carole Brady, in the big screen version of the popular series, "The Brady Bunch Movie" (1995). The move paid off as Long was once again cast in favorable light, while the film became a hit while riding a wave of growing interest in nostalgic television. Long followed up by playing the mom in the Disney Channel's version of "Freaky Friday" (1995), a made-for-television remake of the 1976 feature film original about a mother and daughter (Gaby Hoffmann) who switch bodies. She also began a successful series of guest turns, including appearances in episodes of "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman" (ABC, 1993-97), "Murphy Brown" (CBS, 1988-1998), "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (syndicated, 1996-2003) and "Diagnosis Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001), while reprising Carol Brady for "A Very Brady Sequel" (1996). Following a turn opposite Richard Gere in the less-than-successful Robert Altman film "Dr. T and the Women" (2000), Long returned to the small screen for occasional guest spots on "8 Simple Rules," (ABC, 2002-05) and "Strong Medicine" (Lifetime, 2000- ), but in general stayed under the radar.

Following another turn as Carol Brady, this time in the TV movie "The Brady Bunch in the White House" (Fox, 2002), Long surprised fans when personal troubles bubbled over in public, starting with her 2004 divorce from long-time second husband Bruce Tyson, whom she had married in 1981. Just months following her divorce, Long was rushed to UCLA Medical Center following an overdose of painkillers that were prescribed for a back injury. According to friends, she had been suffering from depression after Tyson walked out on their marriage, leading to unconfirmed speculation that her overdose was a suicide attempt. Following her recovery, Long appeared in episodes of "Boston Legal" (ABC, 2004-08) and "Yes, Dear" (CBS, 2000-06) while being featured in forgettable films like "Honeymoon with Mom" (2006) and "The Last Guy on Earth" (2006). In 2007, her personal struggled re-emerged as the star quietly admitted herself into an outpatient mental treatment facility, leading some tabloids to conclude that she was suffering from a mental collapse. Once again, Long recovered and resumed her career, starring in the holiday-themed TV movie "A Holiday Engagement" (Hallmark Channel, 2011) while delivering a hilarious turn as Jay's (Ed O'Neill) mentally unstable ex-wife in several episodes of "Modern Family" (ABC, 2009- ).