Leslie Caron Dances with Brigitte Bardot, Impresses Gene Kelly, Plays Cinderella, and Finds Inspiration from Marlon Brando.
Leslie Caron: A Few Things You Didn't Know
Leslie Caron is one of my favorite Classic Hollywood actresses.
An American in Paris (1951), Lili (1953), Daddy Long Legs (1955), The Glass Slipper (1955), Gigi (1958), Fanny (1961), Father Goose (1964)… so many of my favorite films star Leslie.
And she’s perfection in every single one.
Leslie Caron: An Underrated Legend
Leslie Caron is a living legend. And she is undoubtedly one of the most underrated actresses and dancers of her era.
So to celebrate Leslie’s birthday today, I want to share some facts about the talented Ms Caron that may surprise you.
Here are a few facts about Leslie Caron you didn’t know:
The Parisienne Ballerina
Even to the untrained eye, it’s obvious that Leslie Caron was an incredibly gifted dancer.
Watch any one of her musicals, or even just the way Leslie carries herself in her non-dancing films, and it’s clear that she has an innate grace.
But Leslie also worked hard to develop that natural talent: before her big break in films with 1951’s An American in Paris, Leslie Caron was a ballerina in Roland Petit’s prestigious ballet company, the Ballets des Champs-Elysees. (Interesting side note, Roland Petit is the son of Rose Repetto, founder of my favorite dance apparel and luxury brand, Repetto.)
In her charming autobiography, [aff. link], Leslie shares the enchantment surrounding this special time in her life as one of the most promising young ballerinas of post-WWII Paris:
“It was the Renaissance of Paris. It was September 1947, I was sixteen years old, and I felt on top of the world!”
Gene Kelly Discovers Leslie Caron
It was while dancing with Roland Petit’s ballet company that Leslie was discovered by Gene Kelly. Kelly, impressed with Leslie’s skill, charisma, and diminutive height, offered her the lead opposite him in An American in Paris (1951).
It was Leslie’s first film, and it made her a star.
Leslie's Former Classmate
Now I’ve got a “small world” moment for you.
Leslie wasn’t the only ballerina in Roland Petit’s Ballets des Champs-Elysees who would go on to achieve international film stardom.
See if you can recognize who this famous classmate is in the picture below–Leslie is on the right, and our mystery dancer is on the left:
Did you guess who it is?
I’ll let Leslie tell us in her own words:
“Another very young dancer…very promising, with a pretty face and slim figure, joined the company for the 1947 Paris season…[Eventually] She chose another road and did quite well. We called her “Bichette” (Little Doe), but her name was Brigitte Bardot.”
Young Leslie Caron and Brigitte Bardot danced together in the same ballet company.
I’m sure neither ballerina ever imagined the film careers and fame that waited just around the corner for them both.
Leslie Caron and The Glass Slipper
One of my favorite Leslie Caron facts involves one of my favorite Leslie Caron films, The Glass Slipper (1955).
The film is full of gorgeous ballet sequences, choreographed and performed by Roland Petit’s company.
If you guessed that Petit got the job because of Leslie’s star power, you’re right. Pretty awesome that Leslie remained loyal to her friends like that, isn’t it?
Leslie would proudly say that she did some of the best technical dancing of her career in The Glass Slipper. But it’s not just her dancing in the film that’s impressive.
An Unconventional Cinderella
Leslie’s take on Cinderella is awesome.
Her “Ella” is spunky, scrappy, and sports the pixie cut that Leslie came to be associated with.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Leslie’s Ella is that she’s a bit of a rebel. And in her autobiography, Leslie shares that it was the most unlikely of muses who inspired her to make Ella such an angst-y rebel:
“One amusing note on my creation of the character of Cinderella: I was, like everyone else in Hollywood, under the influence of Marlon Brando’s performance in On the Waterfront, which had just come out. His modern style of acting created such a revolution in Hollywood. Yes, I admit it, ridiculous as it may be, my inspiration for Cinderella was…Marlon Brando.”
Marlon Brando and Cinderella.
An unlikely pairing, but hey, it worked for Leslie. You can spot her doing a “Brando Brood” several times throughout the film, and it completely works.
Happy Birthday, Leslie Caron!
And that wraps up my birthday tribute to Leslie Caron. 💗
From her accomplished ballet work, to her comedic and dramatic film roles, I am continuously in awe of Leslie’s unique talents.
Happy Birthday, Ms Caron!