Leslie Caron


  1. Cecile Aubry, The Black Rose, 1949.   But for maman disapproving the script, Maryam would have been the Hollywood debut of Caron who wanted to be a nun at 15 and then, a ballet dancer. Her day would come and last longer than Aubry’s. Tyrone Power co-starred as Walter of Gurnie – sounds like a Kenneth Williams character in BBC Radio’s Round The Horne.

  2. Suzanne Cloutier, Juliette ou La clef des songes/Juliette or Key of Dreams, France, 1951.  
    French movie icon Marcel Carné first planned the film for Jean Marais and Micheline Presle in 1942. Until his producers worried about the audacity of his adaptation. Eight years on, while hunting his Juliette among the new girls, Carné lost Caron to the mighty roar of MGM when Gene Kelly came a-calling and on Roger Vadim’s advice (or so he told me), saw some rushes and whisked Caron away for An American In Paris. (The then Mrs Kelly, Betsy Blair, said Caron was nominated by another American in Paris: Eddie Constantine). The Canadian Cloutier was Peter Ustinov’s second wife, 1945-1971.

  3. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1952.   Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Liz Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov) for the runaway Princess Ann.   A further 28 actresses were seen, the good, bad and risible – like the current sex-bombs Yvonne De Carlo Diana Dors, Gina Lollobrigida, Sylvana Mangano, Shelley Winters.  Apart from, perhaps, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman and Wanda Hendrix (even though  her real name as Dixie), the Hollywood hopefuls  – singer Rosemary Clooney(George’s aunt), Jeanne Crain, Nina Foch, Janet Leigh, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Dorothy Malone, Patricia Neal, Barbara Rush – were soon discarded, lacking the stature of Euro-royalty. Idem for the Euros – Swedish Bibi Andersson, and the French Capucine, Leslie Caron, Jeanne Moreau. Which left several perfect Brits Claire Bloom, Joan Collins, Glynis Johns, Kay Kendall, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Moira Shearer, and, of course, Audrey, … soon gracing the Time cover, hailed by the New York Times as a “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike” with, added Variety, a “delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark,” (And, Indeed, it did for evermore).
  4. Joan Taylor, Rose Marie, 1953.    Not knowing what to do with the French dancing find after  An American In Paris, MGM  nearly wasted her as the Native American Wanda in the third Metro musical derived from  the operetta. Then the suits woke up  and gave her  Lili, The Glass Slipper, Gaby, Gigi

  5. Eleanor Parker, The Naked Jungle, 1954.     Once Eleanor was signed, producer George Pal required a re-write – the role  had begun as a young virgin bride.

  6. Taina Elg, Les Girls, 1957.     Cole Porter’s last score and  Gene Kelly’s last MGMovie could not tempt “the waif who twisted the MGM lions’s tale.”  She insisted she was a hoofer, not a ballerina.
  7. Audrey Hepburn, Green Mansions, 1958.       First, Mexican Dolores Del Rio was to be the jungle sprite at RKO in 1933. MGM then bought the rights for Elizabeth Taylor in 1949; she rapidly grew out of the role. Next, in 1953, Rima was aimed at Caron in a version by the more musical team of producer Arthur Freed, writer Alan Jay Lerner and director Vincente Minnelli. Then, it was for Angeli… or Yma Sumac, the Peruvian soprano with the incredible vocal range of five octaves. Finally, Hepburn gave up The Diary of Anne Frank to be directed (badly) by her husband, actor Mel Ferrer.
  8. Luana Patten, Home From The Hill, 1959.    Director Vincente Minnelli would have had a job explaining a French gal in the American backwoods.
  9. Julie Andrews, The Sound of Music, 1964.  Two years before the musical reached Broadway in 1959, Paramount secured rights to Germany’s 1956 Die Trapp-Familie –and  quickly cancelled the re-make when Audrey declined to  play the choir’s mother, Maria Von Trapp.  Fox’s 1957 South Pacific star Mitzi Gaynor then made “a whopping offer” for the musical only to be beaten by Fox which played safe by wanting either Anne Bancroft, Leslie Caron, Doris Day or Grace Kelly wed to Bing Crosby (of all Austrians!) as the Von Trapps. Later as directors changed from Stanley Donen, George Roy Hill, Gene Kelly and a deaf William Wyler to Robert Wise, TV actress Sandra Church and Fox’s 1954 Oklahoma! star Shirley Jones were potential Marias. Critic Pauline Kael famously tried to bury “the sugar-coated lie that people seem to want to eat” but it  saved Fox from the near bankruptcy  of the Cleopatra debacle.

  10. Capucine, What’s New Pussycat, 1964.    
    The title was Beatty’s telephone greeting to his female legions. On hearing it, his agent turned producer Charles Feldman  yelled:  “Title!” After working on the script over two years, Beatty angrily quit his agent and pal  Charles K Feldman’s production over his shrinking role in Woody Allen’s script and the casting of Feldman’s lover, Capucine, instead of Beatty’s lover, Caron. “Warren and Charlie were very good friends,” recalled director Clive Donner. “But Warren didn’t want to act with Capucine.  He’s a lovely guy, Warren,  but deadly serious. So we had a big meeting, it went on and on and on,  with Warren trying to get his own way…  It became “me or her,’,  It became her.”  Feldman immediately suggested Peter O’Toole,  who jumped at ity. He called it: Marx Brothers with sex appeal. “And it made a change from being in love with Burton or camels.”  Back from the dead (Iiterally), Peter Sellers  (in Beatty’s intended shrink role for Groucho Marx) quarrelled over billing.  O’Toole simply said: ”Let him, have want he wants.”  “After that film, Woody Allen was always in control of whatever he did,” said Beatty. “And so was I.”  Just.  Not.  Immediately…  Beatty-Caron made Promise Her Anything, instead. D’oh! That ended their affair – the first time Beatty, the Virginian Baptist, had been named in a divorce case.  And by 1967, he’d fallen for Julie Christie. Like the rest of us.  

  11. Annie Giradot, Trois chambres a Manhattan/Three Rooms In  Manhattan, France, 1965.     Veteran realisateur Marcel Carné offered her the Simenon tale as her first real French film role.   “A sordid tale,” she said, “but excitingly dramatic – and grown up.”
  12. Melina Mercouri, A Man Could Get Killed, 1966.    So could a career…
  13. Macha  Méril,  The Defector,  France-Germany, 1966.    Paris producer and first time realisateur Raoul Levy went through musical chairs for the leading lady of what proved Montgomery Clift’s final film. Caron was first replaced by Monica Vitti, replaced by Nicole Courcel replaced by… Macha.
  14. Faye Dunaway, Bonnie and Clyde, 1966.
  15. Faye Dunaway, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1967.     For the insurance agent investigating Tommy Crown, director Norman Jewison wanted Eva Marie Saint.  Too old, screamed the suits. OK, the director drew up a dreamy wish list:  Caron, Anouk Aimé,  Brigitte Bardot, Candice Bergen, Julie Christie, Suzanne Pleshette, Vanessa Redgrave, Sharon Tate, Raquel Welch… and his star, Steve McQueen, suggested testing Camilla Sparv.  “Yeah, well, I’ve just seen an early print  of Bonnie and Clyde… and you’re gonna spend eight hours kissing her!” (The last time, Caron and Bardot were up for the same film, was for Marc Allegret’s (unmade) Les lauriers sont coupee in the early 50s and Hollywood’s Fanny, which Caron won, in 1960).
  16. Mary Ure, Where Eagles Dare, 1968.   Richard Burton was making an all-out adventure movie to please his stepson – and win a much needed hit (easily achieved as Clint Eastwood was co-starring) and he wanted the French star aboard. Or, the Scottish Ure, ex-wife of John Osbourne, playwright behind Look Back In Ange in 1958
  17. Jacqueline Bisset, The First Time (UK: You Don’t Need Pajamas At Rosie’s),  1969.   She was well out of her then-husband Michael Laughlin’s production, starting life as These Three. She had her requests for script changes refused  and she walked. Ran!  Obviously as this tale of teen guys trying to lose their cherries before  college was… abysmal. On every level. UK title included.

  18. Romy Schneider, La piscine, Italy-France, 1969.   
    Caron, Angie Dickinson, Delphine Seyrig, Monica Vitti, Natalie Wood were unavailable, or wanted their favourite cameraman or refused swimsuit scenes. (Difficult with that title). Alain Delon said: “What if I ask Romy?” For her, it was a gift from her god. He re-launched his on-off lover’s fading career. She was now a wife and mother, while he had one lover in the film (Madly), another visiting (Mireille Darc) before making a movie about (and with) the three of them (Madly, 1970). Pierre Granier-Deferre tried to re-unite The Couple for L’un contre l’autre. Ever the gent, Delon said he couldn’t form a couple again with Romy – she was too old, too ravaged.  Which gave Paris casting director-agent-producer Dominique Besnehard pause every time he saw a tearful Delon on TV going on about (yet again) his great love story with poor Romy.

  19. Lee Remick,  A  Severed  Head, 1969.  Novelist Iris Murdoch’s game of musical beds among London’s bourgeoisie had a weak script killing an impressive cast. (Brando had been invited to join). Ian Holm’s wine expert has a wife, Lee Remick, cheating with his best friend, Richard Attenborough’s shrink (already involved with Claire Bloom), plus a mistress (Jennie Linden) being stolen by his brother Clive Revill. It just might have worked better with producer Elliot Kastner’s dream team (in above order): Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor (of course), Marlon Brando (the psychologist was originally American), Anouk Aimée, Julie Christie, Robert Shaw. (He also Laurence Harvey and Leslie Caron as the shrink and his friend’s wife).
  20. Angela Lansbury,  Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971.    When Disney couldn’t get Julie Andrews,  they cast around for another, er…  English lady.

  21. Julie Christie, Heaven Can Wait, 1977.    “If Warren had stayed a virgin,” said Dustin Hoffman, “he’d be known as the best director in the world…”  With Warren Beatty, you never knew which came first.  The project. Or the latest  lover. They always merged.   Leslie Caron in Promise Her Anything, 1965.; Julie Christie, McCabe and Mrs Miller, 1979, and, of course, Shampoo, 1974.; Diane Keaton, Reds, 1979; Isabelle Adani, Ishtar, 1985; Madonna, Dick Tracy, 1985;‘and finally the actress he wed, Annette Bening, in Bugsy, 1991.  He took so long getting Heaven ready for shooting that his leading  lady went, as in life, from Caron  to Keaton  before he went back to the best of ‘em all, La Christie – the film’s saving grace,” he said.   Also in the mix for Betty Logan  were   Kate Jackson and Mary Steenburgen.  PS Beatty never used the song he asked  Paul McCartney to write,   Did We Meet Somewhere Before? “ If Warren had stayed a virgin,” said Dustin Hoffman, “ he’d be known as the best director in the world.”
  22. Emmanuelle Béart, Histoire de Marie et Julien, France-Italy, 2003.  The reportedly gorgeous shooting actually began in the mid-70s with Finney and Leslie Caron only to be shuttered due to auteurJacques Rivette’ being tired out after seven films in five years.  He finally restarted  the mysterious love affair some 30-odd years and 14 films later with the Polish Radziwilowicz  as the reclusive clock-repairer (and blackmailer) involved with the enigmatic  Béart. She doesn’t bleed when she cuts herself…


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  22