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Leslie Caron recalls what is was like working with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

Leslie Caron (Ian West/PA)
Leslie Caron (Ian West/PA)

Leslie Caron has described the dancing style of Gene Kelly as more sporty, while she felt Fred Astaire was always “one-and-a-half feet off the ground” as she recalled her time with the Hollywood stars.

The 90-year-old actress and dancer performed alongside both of the late stars during her career and reflected on how they would look after her on set.

However, Caron would not reveal who her favourite dancing partner was out of Kelly and Astaire as she felt their styles were “very different”.

Gene Kelly and Miss Piggy
Hollywood song and dance star, actor Gene Kelly (PA)

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, she explained: “One was very modern and more like a footballer, with his beautiful gestures, beautiful bodies. It was more sports – that’s Gene.

“And Fred was always one-and-a-half foot off the ground. He made everything beautiful.

“I saw him walk into a shop and walk to the counter and he was dancing, he walked beautifully.”

The French-American star began her career as a teenage ballerina and made her Hollywood breakthrough after Kelly witnessed her perform during a show in Paris.

Kelly and the film studio behind the 1951 musical An American In Paris later decided to cast Caron as the film’s leading lady.

She recalled how Kelly, who played the leading male role, would call her “kid” but would also look after her on set.

The actress revealed she has initially been shy while filming and said Kelly would tell her “turn your face towards the camera or your grandmother won’t know you were in the film”.

Fred Astaire & Judy Garland
American actor and dancer Fred Astaire (PA)

Caron later starred alongside Astaire in the 1955 musical film Daddy Long Legs where he played a wealthy American who anonymously pays for the education of a resident in a French orphanage, played by the actress.

She described Astaire as “simply adorable and polite” and recalled how one day she accidentally stepped on his foot and, after convincing him it was he who had stood on her, he profusely apologised to her.

Caron also chose Astaire’s song One for My Baby as one of her desert island discs.

The actress starred in a string of other productions during her career, including playing the title role in the 1958 romcom musical Gigi.

For her portrayal of an orphan in the 1953 film Lili, she received a Bafta award for Best Foreign Actress and garnered Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

57th Cannes Film Festival
Actress Leslie Caron (Anthony Harvey/PA)

Caron also picked up an Oscar nod for her role in The L-Shaped Room in 1962.

The actress first appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1956 when she was 25 and the Radio 4 show has said they believe her return nearly 66 years later is the greatest gap between trips to the island in the programme’s 80-year history.

Desert Island Discs airs on BBC Sounds and BBC Radio 4 on Sunday at 11am.

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