The sort of performer for whom the term "gaminlike" was coined, Leslie Caron was prepared for a performing career by her American mother, a former dancer. Training from childhood at the Paris Conservatoire, Caron was 16 when she was selected to dance with the Ballet de Champs Elysses. After three years with this prestigious troupe, she was discovered by Gene Kelly, who cast her as the ingénue in his 1951 film An American in Paris.
This led to a long-term MGM contract and a string of films in which Caron's dancing and singing skills were showcased to the utmost: Lili (1953), The Glass Slipper (1954), Gaby (1956), and Gigi (1958). During this period, she was loaned out to co-star with Fred Astaire in 20th Century-Fox's Daddy Long Legs (1955), and was seen on the Paris stage in Jean Renoir's Ornet. As musicals slowly went out of fashion, Caron sought to alter her screen image, successfully doing so with her portrayal of a pregnant, unmarried woman awaiting an abortion in The L-Shaped Room (1962), a performance that won her the British Film Academy award (she had previously been nominated for a BFA, and an Oscar, for Lili). Her later film assignments included Father Goose (1965), in which she received an image-shattering slap in the face from Cary Grant; Ken Russell's Valentino (1977), in the role of silent-screen legend Alla Nazimova; and Louis Malle's Damage (1992). The first of Caron's three husbands was George Hormel, of the famous American meat-packing family. Her second marriage was to British director Peter Hall, and husband number three was producer Michael Laughlin, whom she wed in 1969. Though not quite as starry-eyed and apple-cheeked as she was in An American in Paris, Caron has retained her beauty and vivacity into her sixties. Among the many awards and honors bestowed upon Leslie Caron was the title of Jury President at the 1989 Berlin Film Festival.
Caron would continue to appear on screen over the coming years, appearing in films like Chocolat and Le Divorce.