Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Lesley Ann!

Lesley Ann Warren, that is. So in honour of the occasion, I'd like to pay tribute to this lovely and talented actress/singer/dancer with this caricature of her in her role as Norma Cassidy, the platinum blonde showgirl in Blake Edwards's 1982 hit, "Victor Victoria". Her sassy, sexy role in this film, however, was a far cry from the performance that first launched her screen career.

The first time viewers saw Lesley Ann onscreen was in the 1965 TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella", which was itself a remake, coincidentally, of the 1957 telecast that featured her co-star from "Victor Victoria", Julie Andrews. Lesley Ann was so sweet in that role and I remember, when seeing that production when it was originally broadcast, having as much of a crush on her as a 5 year old boy could muster up at that age! Not long thereafter, I enjoyed Lesley Ann again in the two musicals she made for Disney, "The Happiest Millionaire" (1967), and "The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band" (1968), in both of which she was romantically paired with John Davidson.

Here is a clip from "Cinderella" with Lesley Ann as the sweet and innocent peasant girl. How could anybody not fall in love with those big, bright, brown eyes?

In contrast, here is the clip from "Victor Victoria" that I used to draw the caricature shown above. As you can see, Lesley Ann Warren has quite the range as an actress, being capable of portraying either the sweet good girl or sexy naughty girl with equal panache! After completing her work on "Victor Victoria", apparently Lesley Ann was quite distraught when she saw her performance up on the big screen at the film's premiere. She felt that she'd played it way over the top and that the critics would dismiss it as such. Fortunately, critics, audiences, and ultimately the Motion Picture Academy didn't agree with her self-assessment, and Lesley Ann's performance was acknowledged with a Best Supporting Actress nomination that year.

It's a shame that when Lesley Ann Warren first arrived onscreen, after some success on the New York stage, movie musicals were on their way out. I believe that her onscreen roles as a singer and dancer were pretty much limited to the four productions I've discussed here, although there was also a TV adaptation of a stage musical about "Superman", where she played Lois, that was apparently broadcast only once back in 1975. That's really too bad in my opinion, as I think Lesley Ann Warren was so vivacious in her musical roles that I wish she'd had the opportunity to do many more. She's certainly gone on to do many dramatic turns in both films and TV, but it's as a singer and dancer that I will always most appreciate this wonderful talented lady. Happy birthday Lesley Ann!

Addendum: Hey, what about this for a coincidence. Apparently Lesley Ann was in a recurring role on "Desperate Housewives" with our man Bob! I'm tellin' ya', that Newhart rascal sure does have great taste in TV mates! Suzanne Pleshette, Mary Frann, Lesley Ann Warren....whew!