Thank Heaven: A Memoir
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Thank Heaven: A Memoir

3.3 11
by Leslie Caron

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"From her first appearance on screen as Gene Kelly's luminous partner in An American in Paris to her shattering Emmy Award-winning performance as a rape victim in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Leslie Caron has enchanted and moved motion picture, theater, and television audiences for over five decades. Her remarkable breadth as an actress has enabled her to

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"From her first appearance on screen as Gene Kelly's luminous partner in An American in Paris to her shattering Emmy Award-winning performance as a rape victim in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Leslie Caron has enchanted and moved motion picture, theater, and television audiences for over five decades. Her remarkable breadth as an actress has enabled her to create such unforgettable roles as Gigi, in which she transforms herself from an ebullient girl into a ravishing young woman; the orphan Lili; and the despairing unwed mother of The L-Shaped Room. The hallmark of every Caron performance is a radiant candor, an ability to chart the inner lives of her characters with a stunning emotional directness." "That same quality is at the heart of her memoir, Thank Heaven, a wry, poignant, and unguardedly frank account of her remarkable life. She vividly evokes her childhood with a distant American mother and courtly French father, and her idyllic summers at her grandparents' estate in the Pyrenees - a childhood that was cut short by the German invasion of France and all the deprivations that accompanied the Occupation. After the war Caron became a precocious star with Roland Petit's Ballets des Champs-Elysees, until the day she was spotted by Gene Kelly and soon afterward - much to her consternation - invited to Hollywood." "Still a teenager, chaperoned by her mother, and speaking little English, MGM's newest discovery found Hollywood little to her liking, but An American in Paris made her an overnight star and set the course of the rest of her life. From there she had a string of successes, and Caron shares her memories of working with actors such as Kelly, Fred Astaire, CaryGrant, Maurice Chevalier, and Warren Beatty - with whom she had a very public and (in her telling) a very funny love affair. There are also unforgettable portraits of the artists who provided Caron the most sustenance during these years: the great director Jean Renoir and his wife, Dido, and the writer Christopher Isherwood. When Caron met the director Peter Hall, she married him and moved to London, where she became not only a mother but one of the city's most popular hostesses, until finally abandoning both her marriage and her London life to return to acting." "Perhaps the most moving section of Thank Heaven is Caron's pensive account of the past two decades of her life, in which she unexpectedly becomes an innkeeper and faces the struggles of becoming "an aging actress" and of depression and alcoholism, a dark period from which she emerges with strength, determination, and dignity." Here is the rare Hollywood memoir that is as bracing in its wit and frankness as it is deeply moving in its honesty - an unforgettable self-portrait of an endlessly fascinating woman.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Caron went from Parisian ballerina to Hollywood movie star at 17, when Gene Kelly tapped her for a co-starring role in the 1951 hit An American in Paris. She became a star in the studio system of that era, and via her MGM contract shared billing with Fred Astaire and Cary Grant by day and socialized with Judy Garland and Lena Horne by night. It’s been a glamorous life, but, as Caron reveals, not without struggles. She grew up in occupied Paris, her father a French chemist, her American mother a former dancer. Caron never felt good enough for her parents: “The path to excellent was clearly indicated, and my insecurity became chronic.” Despite her success, she points to insecurity as the root of her decision to date or marry and divorce several controlling men, including meat-packing heir George Hormel II and actor Warren Beatty, with whom she had an affair in the 1960s. Caron provides countless dishy details about her exploits, which are sure to entertain film buffs, Caron fans and aspiring actors. Today, the 78-year-old two-time Academy Award nominee acts in the U.S. and Paris; in 2007, a role on Law and Order: SVU garnered a prime-time Emmy. Caron also runs an auberge, or inn, in France and, she writes, intends to avoid fading into the background. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Best known for An American in Paris and Gigi, Caron has had a multifaceted career in dance, film, theater, and television, served on the jury of the Cannes Film Festival, authored short stories, and became an innkeeper in Burgundy. Her book, much more memoir than straight autobiography, gives one the feeling of being in the room with her as she reminisces selectively. She covers her early life, living through World War II in occupied Paris, joining the Ballets des Champs Elysées, and working with choreographer Roland Petit. Opportunity knocked with An American in Paris, but the chapter on this is disappointingly brief. Caron was nominated for Oscars for Lili and The L-Shaped Room and won an Emmy in 2007 for a Law and Order performance. The sense of how fleeting fame and happiness are permeates the book. Married three times, she constantly reinvented herself in a variety of ways. VERDICT For those interested in Caron and her career or in general movie star biographies. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 8/09.]—Barbara Kundanis, Longmont P.L., CO
Kirkus Reviews
Caron (Vengeance, 1982) recounts her life and career as Hollywood's "little French girl" in chatty, charming style, revealing an often troubled woman behind the glamorous image of an international movie star. The author writes movingly of her childhood in occupied France, peppering her memories of rationing and shortages with surprising insights into the psychology of the situation. She avers that the French grew increasingly savage under the yoke of their oppressors while the German soldiers took pains to be polite and courteous to their charges. Malnourished and high strung, Caron would have lifelong difficulties with food, her general health and crippling depression-an unhappy legacy from her eccentric, selfish mother, an American dancer who ultimately committed suicide. On the sunnier side, Caron triumphed in such international hits as An American in Paris (1951), Lili (1953) and Gigi (1958), and her orbit included many significant participants in the global arts scene. Director Jean Renoir and writer Christopher Isherwood were devoted mentors, and Caron alternately enjoyed and endured a complicated romance with Warren Beatty. The author is a diplomatic memoirist, with mostly good things to say about co-stars such as Cary Grant, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and she is frustratingly oblique about her displeasure with the likes of Kirk Douglas and David Niven. With her tumultuous marriages and chronic physical and mental-health problems, Caron can come off a bit like a Gallic Elizabeth Taylor, but her melodramatic personal life is tempered by good humor and a refreshing lack of pretension. The actress's fortunes fell when she aged out of leading-lady status, and her attempt to reinventherself as a rustic Burgundy innkeeper reads like a perversely funny distaff Peter Mayle travelogue. Her spirits were revived, however, by a burgeoning writing career and late-in-the-day acting successes in films such as Chocolat (2000) and Le Divorce (2003), and an Emmy-winning turn on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Curiously, this famous dancer has more to say about camera angles than the mechanics of her Terpsichorean art. The little French girl spins an engrossing yarn. Author events in New York and Los Angeles. Agent: George Borchardt/George Borchardt Inc.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.05(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Leslie Caron is one of the most cherished and admired international film stars of our time. She made her film debut with Gene Kelly in the classic MGM musical An American in Paris, created one of the most enduring roles in American musicals as Gigi, danced with Fred Astaire in Daddy Long Legs, and starred with Cary Grant in Father Goose. She lives in Paris.

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