Recommended: Leslie Caron, The Reluctant Star

Tip of the frothy, plumed "Gigi" hat to reader Barbara R., who sent an e-mail to recommend the recent documentary, "Leslie Caron, The Reluctant Star" and ask, "What are those pearls she's wearing?" (Spoiler alert: big white and golden South Seas, as befits a grande dame.)

You can find the film posted for free streaming on various web sites, some of which may be accessible only by country, but look for it, make a pot of tea, and settle in to a major charm initiative by one of the greats. Try Knowledge Network, which Barbara gave me, TVO or PBSInternational.

Caron was, and remains, her own woman. After being whisked at barely 19 from the corps of Paris' Les Ballets des Champs-Elysees to Hollywood, she matured enough even under autocratic studio rule to put her tiny foot down about cheesecake shots and arranged dates with men whom she had never met.

She was one of the very few dancer-actresses who moved from dance roles (partnered with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, below) to drama, earning nominations and awards for both genres.

We are served only tidbits of her routines with her legendary male dance partners, but even those show her graceful, classical counterpoint to their loose-limbed jazz style. "An American in Paris" stands as one of the "most perfect films ever made".

"The Reluctant Star" offers carefully-controlled glimpses into both her professional and personal life, but even those peeks fascinate. It is as if you were invited into a magnificent townhouse, but only as far as the sitting room.

For example, following her American and British award-winning films, Caron returned to her native France, hoping to join the artistic community there. After an initial film, the classic "The Man Who Loved Women", directed by François Truffaut, nothing more came to her. The pain of failure to find acceptance in France's artistic community is evident still—yet she stayed forty years, a very long part of her life about which we are told nothing.

And while Caron is most definitely a ladyperson, surely there were liaisons other than that with the notorious Lothario Warren Beatty. Only one of three marriages is mentioned, and while her son, British producer Christopher Hall, has a sweet cameo, his sister, Jennifer Caron-Hall, is glimpsed in a split-second childhood clip.

The lacunae do not obscure her beauty and backbone, and she does refer to bouts of severe depression, similar to her mother's. Those of us wondering how to dress at 85 have only to admire Caron in simple, elegant trousers, her sweater or jacket always accessorized with a beautiful pin or those pearls. Her enviable posture and purposeful stride (on what have been called the most beautiful legs in film) are the legacy of a life at the barre and professional discipline.

Caron was 1.56m, or just under 5 ft 2in. in "Gigi" and "Daddy Long Legs" and probably shorter now; petite women will have a lesson in how to create a dramatic visual presence.

Toward the documentary's close, Caron, in a double rope of white and a single strand of golden South Seas, is interviewed by Jane Pauley, also in South Seas. Watching these two pearled personnages on my laptop allowed me to stop and stare, and then continue toward the end, which came far too soon.

An ideal holiday treat to watch snuggled up on the sofa, pearls optional.


I just watched this a couple of weeks ago on TVO so those in Ontario could check out the TVO website to see if it's still there.

I did find it so very interesting but yes, would have liked to know even more about her life and career. But I also think that's how older stars keep their glamour and why they continue to intrigue us - they don't tell us everything - they keep us wondering and interested in them.

I also highly recommend this documentary - and yes, the pearls were gorgeous.
Duchesse said…
Margie: I did link to the TVO site, among others, because with TVO it can be up one day and down the next. As of now, a full version is also on You Tube.
Madame Là-bas said…
I watched the show on Knowledge Network in British Columbia a couple of weeks ago. I believe that there is a series of biographies of women actors. Leslie Caron is so pretty at 85!
Venasque said…
That was lovely. Thank you for the suggestion. The pearls are lovely too - she's so elegant.
I hope that I can find it online here too...she is a lovely woman.
Thank you for sharing this today...I am stuck in with a cold and could use a distraction!
A fabulous french femme wearing gorgeous pearls sounds like just the thing!
Mary said…
I have the documentary saved on my DVR because I want to watch it again. While much was not said about parts of her past, some mystery is not a bad thing in a time where social media types actually think we care about what they had for breakfast (we don't). In fact, she reminded me of an encounter I had in an airport when I was about 19. The woman was older, well-coifed, elegantly dressed and altogether delightful. We were both waiting for an international flight that was extremely late (in the days before you had an app for arrival updates). We met at the arrivals board and started chatting when we realized we were waiting for the same delayed flight. She was waiting for her buisnessman husband; I, for my parents. We ended up talking for several hours. She shared a little of her history (fascinating), as well as a few tidbits on marriage and getting older (she was probably in her late 60s). The one thing I have never forgotten was her saying, that in marriage one should always remain a little mysterious. It wasn't necessary to reveal everything about oneself. Not that one should be sneaky or lie, but to hold onto something of yourself. And, I remember, as she pointed out her husband coming through the arrivals door, watching his face and the pure joy he exuded upon seeing her again. It was clearly mutual. As she said, a little mystery is not a bad thing. Not for her and not for Ms Caron.
Duchesse said…
Mary: I agree, yet...40 years without any sense of life in France seemed to me something else. I wondered if it was connected to bitterness about not beingbwelcomed by the industry there. I learned from research that, for example, she was co-owner of an inn in Burgundy. And her daughter is a well-regarded artist in Britain.
The story of your encounter is wonderful. I suspect those conversations were deeper than nearly anything possible from a Facebook
Laura Jantek said…
Thank you so much for posting about this interview. Really enjoyed it! Great sense of style. Lovely "simple" haircut! Nothing like a really good cut!
Sandra Sallin said…
Oh, goody. I can't wait to find this documentary. So looking forward to her pearls.
LauraH said…
Sounds interesting, if a trifle cryptic. Lately I've been more attracted to documentaries than fiction movies. Life Itself (about Roger Ebert), Iris (about Iris Apfel) and The Wrecking Crew (session musicians in 50/60/70s LA) were all very enjoyable, exploring worlds that I would otherwise never encounter.
Susan said…
Thank you for this post! I find that the video is available free to Prime members on Amazon in the United States.
Duchesse said…
Susan: Thanks for providing another source; I imagine quite a few readers are Prime customers.
The TVO link seems to work fine, at least for now. It will be fun to watch this during the strange days at the year's end. She is lovely and reminds me of a relative who lived to 102!

Happy Solstice!

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