The Durrells in Corfu's Leslie Caron

Tea Time Tidbit for the week of November 14, 2016

Tea Time Tidbit

Leslie Caron

It's wonderful seeing the lovely Leslie Caron back on our screens in The Durrells in Corfu, in which she plays Countess Mavrodaki.

The 85-year-old diminutive (she's just 5' 1" tall) actress is one of the oldest living Hollywood stars. She's the second earliest surviving recipient of a Best Actress Oscar nomination (the first being 91-year-old Olivia de Havilland) and at the age of 75 won an Emmy award for her portrayal of an elderly woman and cosseted rape victim in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

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With Gene Kelly in An American in Paris

Caron's acting career began at the age of just 17, with An American in Paris, starring Gene Kelly. Prior to that she was a ballet dancer. Kelly and his wife had actually seen Caron dance when she was 15 and were reportedly so impressed that they went backstage to meet her, only to find she'd gone home. Two years later when looking for a French dancer to co-star with him in An American Paris, Kelly contacted Caron. It would be a life-changing experience for the young French girl. Not only did she have to move from France to Hollywood, she also had to learn English and take acting lessons to enable her to make the transition from dancer to actress.

Despite her life as a glamorous film star, Caron had never been to Corfu until her role in The Durrells. It was a part she probably couldn't turn down, though, seeing as the series was produced by Christopher Hall, the son of Caron and her second husband Royal Shakespeare Company founder and director, Peter Hall. The couple had met when Caron was working in England. She was a wealthy Hollywood movie star, he was a young theatre director earning just about $40 a week. They married in 1956 and during the course of their nine year marriage, had two children, Christopher and a daughter, Jennifer, who also became an actress.

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In Gigi

From all accounts, Caron's marriage to Hall was strained. Hall seemingly preferred that Caron stayed home, keeping house, and for years refused to let her join his theatre company, insisting it would look as though he was playing favorites. He did though, according to Caron, allow her to make the sandwiches for his production meetings! It was only when Hall feared their marriage was unravelling that he finally cast her as a water nymph with magical powers. It would prove to be too little too late and a couple of years later Caron escaped back to Hollywood where she began the affair with actor Warren Beatty that would lead to the end of her marriage.

Caron and the five years younger Beatty never married, instead the affair eventually fizzled out and Caron returned to London, where she met and, on January 1st, 1969, married her third husband, Michael Laughlin. They divorced in 1980.

Tea Time Tidbit

As Countess Mavrodaki in The Durrells in Corfu

Caron continued to act, although the roles were nowhere near as large as they had once been. In 1993, she converted a 16th century boathouse into a charming inn, which she ran and managed until 2009, the same year she received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It seems that Caron thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks she spent in Corfu while working on The Durrells, and she especially enjoyed the generosity of the Greek people. She also not only got to be with her son, but was in scenes with her grandson Ben Hall, who plays Donald, and her dog Tchi Tchi, who plays the Countess's pampered pooch.

The Durrells in Corfu season finale airs this Sunday night at 8pm, on MPT.

To contact Heather:
E-mail: heather@mpt.org
Address: Afternoon Tea
Maryland Public Television
11767 Owings Mills Blvd.
Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Afternoon Tea is Maryland Public Television's weekday presentation of British programs.
Our host and Tea Lady is Heather Sanderson.
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