Closer Weekly - - News - — Bruce Fretts, with re­port­ing by Katie Bruno

The Gigi star shares mem­o­ries of Gene Kelly, Fred As­taire and more!

She was an un­known 20-year-old French bal­let dancer when Gene Kelly cast her as his lead­ing lady in 1951’s An Amer­i­can in Paris, af­ter Cyd Charisse dropped out be­cause she was preg­nant. But Les­lie Caron knew she was in good hands. “In bal­let, you’re silent, so I was very ner­vous about speak­ing,” es­pe­cially in a for­eign tongue, Les­lie told Closer on the TCM Cruise. “Gene helped me a lot — he gave me the pro­nun­ci­a­tion and told me what I was say­ing be­cause I wasn’t quite sure!”

Work­ing with Gene got Les­lie’s movie ca­reer off on the right foot, and she went on to star in such clas­sic mu­si­cals as Lili and Gigi. She bonded with an­other dance icon, Fred As­taire, on 1955’s Daddy Long Legs. “Fred’s wife, Phyllis, died while we were do­ing re­hearsals, but he de­cided it would be bet­ter to work than to re­tire and go into de­pres­sion,” Les­lie, 85, re­calls. “I was re­ally fond of him — he was so gos­sipy! He told me that Judy Gar­land would eat two ham­burg­ers and ice creams in­stead of one and that she was in trou­ble.”

Les­lie got into a sticky sit­u­a­tion of her own when she had an af­fair with War­ren Beatty, her ro­man­tic lead in 1966’s Prom­ise Her Any­thing. The leg­endary lothario was named as a co-re­spon­dent in her di­vorce from her sec­ond hus­band, Bri­tish theater di­rec­tor Peter Hall (she’d pre­vi­ously been wed to meat mogul Ge­orge Hormel III). But Les­lie has only fond mem­o­ries of work­ing with War­ren. “He gave me a lot of act­ing tips,” she says. “He was a very good mas­ter.”

She has two chil­dren — pro­ducer Christo­pher John Hall, 59, and ac­tress-writer Jen­nifer Hall, 58 — and was mar­ried once more, to di­rec­tor Michael Laughlin from 1969 to ’80. These days, she’s hap­pily sin­gle and ready to min­gle with her fans: “I’m de­lighted, thrilled and im­pressed at how many there are!”

“Fred was so el­e­gant. He never ran out of breath!”

— Les­lie, to Closer

“Danc­ing with Gene to Gersh­win was fab­u­lous!” Les­lie says of An Amer­i­can in Paris.

Les­lie won an Emmy for an episode of SVU in 2006.

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