Leslie Caron: Reluctant Ballerina

There are many Franco-American actors or actresses that garnered celebrity in America. One of them is the beautiful ballerina-turned-actress, Leslie Caron. Born in Boulogne-sur-Seine, Seine, she was the daughter of Margaret (née Petit), a Franco-American dancer on Broadway, and Claude Caron, a French chemist, pharmacist, perfumer, and boutique owner. She was prepared since infancy for a career in the arts and when she was discovered. Caron started her career as a ballerina. Gene Kelly discovered her in the Roland Petit company, a local ballet company and cast her to appear opposite him in the musical An American in Paris (1951). It was this major part which led her to so much more, including roles such as Gigi in the movie Gigi (1958) with Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier, and her other gracious role of Lili in 1953, Caron was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in Lili. For her performance in the British drama the L-Shaped Room (1962), she won the BAFTA Award. She was even nominated for an Academy Award.

Leslie Caron In the 1960s and thereafter, Caron worked in European films as well. In fact, in her later performance starring opposite Cary Grant in Father Goose (1964) gave her much acclaim. Later film roles also included Ken Russell’s Valentino (1977), in the role of silent-screen legend Alla Nazimova, and Louis Malle’s Damage (1992). After some coaxing, she made other appearances in the early 90’s and late 2000’s, such as the movie Le Divorce (2003), directed by James Ivory, with Kate Hudson and Naomi Watts, in which she played an honorable motherly figure.

Opposite Fred Astaire in Daddy Long Legs (1955).

With all looks aside, she certainly had the acting chops to work alongside greats such as Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. If it wasn’t for her multi-talented life, she would had never gotten her star-launching role in American in Paris and would perhaps still be dancing ballet. She was never reluctant to start acting, even if it was already planned for her by her mother, and she lived a desired life after being a ballerina and conquering the film and world stage with both her elegance and her beauty.

Caron as Gigi (1958). Photo: JILLIAN EDELSTON.

She still lives on as a renowned French actress with class and with style. Often compared to the other French actresses like Bridgette Bardot and Catherine Deneuve, Leslie Caron will always be known for her short pixie cuts and pouty lips (Unlike Bardot who pouted all the time). Such a simple yet sultry look made her a sex symbol in her own right. Now in her late 80’s, Lesli Caron is still widely celebrated for her charm and grace, with no other comparable foreign export than her. And as her many roles have been passed, her shy wit has not, and still makes her a commodity today. She will always be seen as the first French ingenue.

by Veronica Felipe

Twitter @vfelippe99

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