The L-Shaped Room
Leslie Caron is an Oscar nominated, award winning French actress who began her career as a professional dancer in the mid 1940s before breaking into Hollywood starring opposite Gene Kelly in “An American in Paris” (1951). After her auspicious debut, the leading lady acquired widespread fame and recognition as the title role in the charming musical “Lili” (1953), from which she picked up her first Academy Award nomination and a BAFTA Award. She was also outstanding in the movies “Gigi” (1958) and “Fanny” (1961), both of which won Caron Golden Globe nominations. With her portrayal of the pregnant unmarried woman in “The L-Shaped Room” (1963), Caron took home a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award and a second Oscar nomination for her work in the film. Her more recent films include Ken Russell's “Valentino” (1977), “Funny Bones” (1995), “Last of the Blonde Bombshells” (2000, TV), the Lasse Hallström directed “Chocolat” (2000) and “Le Divorce” (2003). Caron nabbed an Emmy Award for her guest role in the NBC hit series “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (2006).
For her dedication to show business, Caron was honored with an International Award from the 1989 Women in Film Crystal and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the 2005 Sarasota Film Festival. She was also chosen as a member of the jury at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival and became the president of the jury at the 1989 Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin.
As for her personal life, Caron has been married four times. She and her second husband Peter Hall (together from 1956 to 1965) have two children together, TV producer Christopher John Hall and actress Jennifer Caron Hall. Leslie had an affair with Warren Beatty while still married to Hall. On Beatty, she said, “Anyone who has come close to Warren has shed quite a few feathers. He tends to maul you.”
Caron has divorced her fourth husband, Paul Magwood. In addition to Beatty, the former dancer has also been linked to Peter Lawford (early 1960s), Frank Sinatra (mid-1960s), Jean-Pierre Petrolacci (1980s) and Robert Wolders (1994-1995). Caron owns and operates a bed and breakfast in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, France, called Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes (The Owls' Nest Inn).
Childhood and Family:
Leslie Claire Margaret Caron was born on July 1, 1931, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Seine, France. Her French father, Claude Caron, worked as a pharmacist and her mother, Margaret Petit, was an American dancer. She was trained as a dancer at the Paris Conservatoire in Paris, France. It was her mother that prepared Leslie for a performing career.
Known by her family and close friends with the nickname Carly Jane, Leslie entered a new phase of her personal life by marrying George Hormel II, who was the grandson of the founder of the renowned American company Hormel, on September 23, 1951. The marriage, however, ended in March 1954. She next tied the knot with British director Peter Hall on August 6, 1956. They welcomed their first child, son Christopher John Hall (TV producer), in 1957 and their second child, daughter Jennifer Caron Hall (actress), was born in 1962. Their marriage was interrupted by Leslie's affair with actor Warren Beatty that led to her divorce on February 5, 1965. She was married for the third time on January 1, 1967, to film producer Michael Laughlin. The couple divorced in 1980 after having been together for 13 years. Leslie's fourth husband, Paul Magwood, was a backstage film employee. They are no longer together.
The daughter of a former dancer, Leslie Caron began her career as a ballet dancer when she was 16 with the renowned Ballet de Champs Elysses in Paris. Three years later, she was spotted by American actor Gene Kelley, which led young Caron to being hired in Kelly's 1951 film “An American in Paris.” The classic musical, which won 6 Oscars, including one for Best Picture, marked Caron's entry into the cinematic industry. Her performance caught the eye of MGM executives who then signed the promising star to a contract.
Caron next worked with Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck and Louis Calhern in the thriller “The Man with a Cloak” (1951), starred as the girlfriend of Ralph Meeker in the Art Cohn written “Glory Alley” (1952) and costarred in the musical “The Story of Three Loves” (1953). However, it was not until director Charles Walters cast her in the lead role of a poor French girl adopted by members of a circus troupe in the children's fantasy “Lili” (1953) that Caron gained worldwide notice. The role brought her a BAFTA Film for Best Foreign Actress and an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
More starring roles followed, including appearances in “The Glass Slipper” (1955), 20th Century-Fox's “Daddy Long Legs” (1955, with Fred Astaire), “Gaby” (1956, starred as a ballet dancer) and the comedy “The Man Who Understood Women” (1959, with Henry Fonda). She won a Golden Laurel for Top Female Musical Performance and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress - Comedy/Musical for her work in the Oscar winning musical “Gigi” (1958), opposite Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier. Meanwhile, she also appeared on the Paris stage in a production of “Ornet,” by Jean Renoir, and embarked on the London stage playing the title character in “Gigi” (1958).
When musicals gradually went out of fashion, Caron opened the 1960s with dramatic roles in Abel Gance's “Austerlitz,” her first French language film, and the based-on-novel “The Subterraneans” (both 1960). After starring in “Fanny” (1961), from which she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama, and starring as Claire Jordan in “Guns of Darkness” (1962), Caron's efforts paid off with her dramatic turn as a pregnant single girl in the Bryan Forbes directed “The L-Shaped Room” (1962), which won the actress her second Academy Award nomination. Her performance also received a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress-Drama, a BAFTA Film for Best British Actress and a Golden Laurel for Top Female Dramatic Performance (3rd place).
The rest of the 1960s saw Caron starring with Cary Grant in the Oscar winner “Father Goose” (1964), team up with Warren Beatty for the comedy “Promise Her Anything” (1965) and portraying Françoise Labé in the French language “Is Paris Burning” (1966). She then rejoined “Lili” costar Mel Ferrer for “Carole” (1973), a made-for-TV film directed by Norman Lloyd, portrayed Angela Kelno in the critically acclaim ABC miniseries “QB VII” (1974), opposite Ben Gazzara and Anthony Hopkins, and stood out as legendary stage and screen actress Nazimova in Ken Russell's biopic “Valentino” (1977), adapted from a novel by Chaw Mank. She closed out the decade as Dr. Sammy Lee in the independent movie “Goldengirl” (1979).
Caron became more selective with her follow-up projects. Some of her work during the 1980s and 1990s included the CBS miniseries “Master of the Game” (1984), based on the Sidney Sheldon novel, Louis Malle's “Damage” (1992, opposite Jeremy Irons, Juliette Binoche and Miranda Richardson), Edgardo Cozinsky's “Guerriers et Captives” (1994, with Dominique Sanda), Peter Chelsom's “Funny Bones” (1995), a comedy also starring Oliver Platt, Jerry Lewis and Lee Evans, and “Passion's Way” (1999), a CBS movie which cast her as the mother-in-law of Sela Ward. In addition to TV and film work, Caron also found time to pursue her stage career. In 1985, she toured throughout the United States in a production of “On Your Toes.”
2000 saw Caron costar with Judi Dench, Ian Holm and Cleo Lain in the HBO film “Last of the Blonde Bombshells” and appear in Lasse Hallström's praised movie “Chocolat,” which reunited her with Dench and Juliette Binoche. In the movie, she notably portrayed a French widow named Madame Audel and co-won a SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture. The next year, Caron could be seen in the television film “Murder on the Orient Express,” based on a novel by Agatha Christie. Among her costars in the mystery film were Alfred Molina, her costar in “Chocolat,” and Meredith Baxter.
Caron resurfaced in 2003 to play the strict mother-in-law of Naomi Watt in director James Ivory's adaptation of the Diane Johnson bestselling book “Le Divorce.” Kate Hudson and Thierry Lhermitte also starred in the film as Isabel Walker and Edgar Cossett, respectively. In 2006, she portrayed Lorraine Delmas in an episode of NBC's “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” called “Recall.” For her effort, she was handed a 2007 Emmy in the category of Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.
“The most important thing is to remain active and to love what you are doing.” Leslie Caron
Emmy: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 2007
Sarasota Film Festival: Lifetime Achievement Award, 2005
Women in Film Crystal: International Award, 1989
Golden Globe: Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama, “The L-Shaped Room,” 1964
Golden Laurel: 3rd place, Top Female Dramatic Performance, “The L-Shaped Room,” 1964
BAFTA Film: Best British Actress, “The L-Shaped Room,” 1963
Golden Laurel: Top Female Musical Performance, “Gigi,” 1959
BAFTA Film: Best Foreign Actress, “Lili,” 1954