Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Star of the month "Leslie Caron"

An endearing French leading lady with attractively unconventional "funny face" looks, Leslie Caron was a classically trained dancer who, after being discovered by Gene Kelly for "An American in Paris" (1951), starred successfully in other English-language movies over the next decades. She did make several other musicals in the early 50s, including a retelling of Cinderella, "The Glass Slipper" (1954), and "Daddy Long Legs" (1955), opposite Fred Astaire, but she seemed to prefer relying on her warmth and considerable talent as an actress, spending most of her career in straight comedy and drama.

...Early in her career Caron specialized in waif-like gamines, sometimes orphaned; probably her finest performance of the period came in the delightful children's fantasy "Lili" (1953), for which she justly won an Oscar nomination. By the end of the 50s, Caron was getting too old to sustain the role, and many of her 60s starring films (i.e., "Father Goose" 1964, opposite Cary Grant) cast her in somewhat more standardized leading roles.... Though she acted infrequently during the 70s, her offbeat take on legendary stage and screen actress Nazimova was a highlight of Ken Russell's typically bizarre biopic "Valentino" (1977).

...She played Sela Ward's mother-in-law in "Passion's Way", a CBS movie airing during the 1997-98 season, and joined with Dame Judi Dench, Ian Holm, Olympia Dukakis and Cleo Laine for the charming HBO telepic "Last of the Blonde Bombsells" (2000), in which Dench's character, now a senior citizen, attempts to reunite her WWII-era swing band.

...Still stunning and refined in her seventies, Caron tackeld one of her best, most enjoyable late-career roles in "Le Divorce" (2003), the sophisticated Merchant-Ivory adaptation of the Diane Johnson best-seller.

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