Is it? Could it be? I bet it is... Yes... It is Leslie Caron!
— my thoughts as I watched episode three of "The Durrells on Corfu", a British import on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre based on Gerald Durrell's quasi-autobiography of his family on Corfu in the late 1930s.
The family is high-spirited and a bit madcap, maybe downright mean to each other at times. This may take some liberties with the truth, but the Durrells were in fact an unusual brood.
|In character on Corfu|
How did Leslie Caron, now 85, land on Corfu? She plays Countess Mavrodaki, a reclusive member of Corfu's aristocracy. The Countess gives the sweetly miserable adolescent Margo Durrell a job as her "companion". Primary function: reading sappy romances aloud as the Countess paints some pretty awful still lifes. Aside: The Countess' butler is played by Jeremy Swift, also Maggie Smith's butler on "Downton Abbey". Leslie Caron has a small role, but she is lovely. Her appearance reminds me how little we have seen her and how much we have missed.
|Leslie as Gigi|
Leslie was one of the "gamines" popular in the 1950s. She achieved movie fame in 1951's "An American in Paris" and went on to star in the musicals "Gigi", "Lili" and "Daddy Long Legs" as well as "The L-Shaped Room" and "Father Goose". She continues to appear sporadically in films, on stage and television.
Lovely Leslie was born in France to a Franco-American ballet dancer and a French chemist-perfumer. She trained to be a dancer from childhood and was discovered by Gene Kelly while appearing in Roland Petit's renowned ballet company. She's been married three times and has two children. A scandalous affair with Warren Beatty in the early '60s caused the break-up of her second marriage (to playwright Peter Hall). Her 2010 autobiography, "Thank Heaven", tells all.
|Leslie with Warren|
There is an interesting gamine connection. After Audrey Hepburn's death Leslie had a relationship with Gamine #1's long-time companion, Robert Wolders. And Zizi Jeanmarie, another '50s gamine still kicking at 92, was married to Roland Petit of Leslie's ballet company.
|Audrey with Robert|
If being a dancer contributed to these ladies' grace and poise, sign me up for lessons.