Ms. Caron is the warm kind of storyteller that makes you fall under her spell. She on her sofa, you on yours, a pot of tea (and by tea I mean wine) between you, and you’ve got a lovely way to spend an hour catching up with an old friend.
Leslie Caron was a 17-year-old ballerina in Paris when she’d just gotten her first solo, dancing in Oedipus and The Sphinx. Gene Kelly happened to be in the audience that night, and happened to think she was great. Hollywood was not on Ms. Caron’s radar and she had no ambitions to be a star, but agreed to a screen test “to be polite.” Two weeks later she was whisked away to L.A., signed to a 7-year contract with a major movie studio, and was starring opposite Kelly in An American in Paris.
In Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star, by venerable Canadian film maker Larry Weinstein, Ms. Caron is chatty, humble, engaging, and candid. As a young starlet, she rebelled against the Hollywood machine and bucked against the male-dominated industry. All these years later, you can still see the dancer in Ms. Caron, and the rebellious streak in her as well. Her posture is straight and proud, and her eyes positively dance recounting stories of all the men with whom she’s shared the screen: Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Warren Beatty, and even Johnny Depp. Her career has had longevity and reach well beyond a dancer’s, having proven Gene Kelly’s hunch by earning Oscar nominations and Emmy awards as an actor in her own right.
Ms. Caron notes “I have a great deal of trouble imagining myself as an old lady” and watching her, so will you. She is alive, sparkling with insight, still an artist wanting nothing more than to practice her craft. Documentarian Weinstein has kept the story lean with a running time well under an hour, but every moment is filled with vigour. You will fall in love with Ms. Caron, and her little dog too, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll suffer intense cravings for the immediate screening of some 1950s cinematic history.
Leslie Caron: The Reluctant Star will have its world premiere at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 6:30 PM.