SHE DANCED WITH GENE AND FRED — AND ROMANCED WARREN BEATTY!
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.