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Gene Kelly got her into the movies for the film An American in Paris Got a world-wide reputation for her roles in Lili and Gigi 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 s.
Leslie herself began taking dance lessons at age 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.
The rest is history. Leslie was put under a seven-year MGM contract where her luminous skills would also be featured in non-musical showcases. Audrey Hepburn , who had played the title part on Broadway, was keen on doing the film, but producer Arthur Freed wrote the part expressly for Leslie.
It was also Freed who called up Fred Astaire to suggest her as his leading lady in Gigi Leslie tried the role out on the London stage prior to doing the film version. A few more forgettable film roles came and went until she returned triumphantly in a non-musical adaptation of a highly successful Broadway musical.
The film version of Fanny was more adult in nature for Leslie and was blessed with gorgeous cinematography, a touching script and the continental flavor of veterans, Maurice Chevalier , Charles Boyer , and Horst Buchholz. Even more adult in scope was the shattering British drama The L-Shaped Room wherein the actress plays a pregnant French refugee who is abandoned yet again.
She earned her a second British Academy Award and a second Oscar nomination for this superb performance. While the mids and s saw her film career take a Hollywood detour into breezy comedy with a number of lightweight fare opposite the likes of Rock Hudson , Cary Grant and Warren Beatty , she managed to shine with a complex working class mother role in the remarkable Italian film Familienvater starring Nino Manfredi and Ugo Tognazzi , and was spotted in the popular crossover film Valentino starring iconic Russian ballet star Rudolf Nureyev.
She also was invited and accepted to appear on American TV. She is divorced from the late meat packing heir and musician Geordie Hormel ; from avant-garde Royal Shakespeare director Peter Hall , by whom she has two children, Christopher and Jennifer both of whom have careers in the entertainment field ; and from her Chandler movie producer Michael Laughlin.
One of the few MGM post-musical stars to enjoy a long, lasting and formidable dramatic career, Leslie Caron is still continuing today though on a more limited basis. She has received a number of Life Achievement Awards for her contributions to both film and dance.
Leslie M. LeCron