Tuesday Tunes: Leslie Caron
This Tuesday we are spotlighting the elegant and charming…
Unfortunately, Hollywood considers musical dancers as hoofers. Regrettable expression.
French ballet dancer Leslie Caron was discovered by the legendary MGM star Gene Kelly during his search for a co-star in one of the finest musicals ever filmed, the Oscar-winning An American in Paris (1951), which was inspired by and based on the music of George Gershwin. Leslie’s gamine looks and pixie-like appeal would be ideal for Cinderella-type rags-to-riches stories, and Hollywood made fine use of it. Combined with her fluid dancing skills, she became one of the top foreign musical artists of the 1950s, while her triple-threat talents as a singer, dancer and actress sustained her long after musical film’s “Golden Age” had passed.
Leslie Claire Margaret Caron was born in France on July 1, 1931. Her father, Claude Caron, was a French chemist, and her American-born mother, Margaret Petit, had been a ballet dancer back in the States during the 1920s. Leslie herself began taking dance lessons at age 11. She was on holidays at her grandparents’ estate near Grasse when the Allies landed on the 15th of August 1944. After the German rendition, she and her family went to Paris to live. There she attended the Convent of the Assumption and started ballet training. While studying at the National Conservatory of Dance, she appeared at age 14 in “The Pearl Diver,” a show for children where she danced and played a little boy. At age 16, she was hired by the renowned Roland Petit to join the Ballet des Champs-Elysees, where she was immediately given solo parts.
Leslie’s talent and reputation as a dancer had already been recognized when on opening night of Petit’s 1948 ballet “La Rencontre,” which was based on the theme of Orpheus and featured the widely-acclaimed dancer ‘Jean Babilee’, she was seen by then-married Hollywood couple Gene Kelly and Betsy Blair. Leslie did not meet the famed pair at the end of the show that night as the 17-year-old went home dutifully right after her performance, but one year later Kelly remembered Leslie’s performance when he returned to Paris in search for a partner for his upcoming movie musical An American in Paris (1951). The rest is history.
Lise – An American in Paris (1951)
Daddy Long Legs (1955) – Sluefoot – Leslie Caron & Fred Astaire
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron- An American in Paris
Fun Facts About Miss Leslie Caron
One of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies, other actresses that have also done this includes Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds, and Rita Hayworth.
Member of jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980
Was president of the jury at the ‘Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin’ in 1989.
For Peter Hall’s 30th birthday her present was – simply – a Rolls Royce.
Returned to work 3 months after giving birth to her son Christopher Hall to begin filming Gigi (1958).
Received the 2,394th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame [December 2009].
Once romantically linked (1995-1996) to handsome “Laredo” actor Robert Wolders who married older actress Merle Oberon and was the companion of older actress Audrey Hepburn until her death in 1993. Leslie is five years older than Wolders.
She and her daughter, Jennifer Caron Hall, co-starred on an episode of The Love Boat (1977), in the parts of mother and daughter, both con artists, engaged in fleecing millionaires.