Summary

Birth:
25 Sep 1936 1
Bombay, India 1
Death:
14 Sep 1996 1
Los Angeles, California 1
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Personal Details

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Full Name:
Juliet Anne Prowse 1
Also known as:
Juliet Prowse 1
Birth:
25 Sep 1936 1
Bombay, India 1
Female 1
Death:
14 Sep 1996 1
Los Angeles, California 1
Cause: Cancer - Pancreatic 1
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Marriage:
John McCook 1
1972 1
Divorce Date: 1979 1
Marriage:
Eddie Frazier 1
1969 1
Divorce Date: 1970 1
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Occupation:
Anglo-Indian dancer 1
Race or Ethnicity:
Anglo-Indian 1

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Stories

Juliet Prowse Is Dead at 59; Leggy Star of Musicals, Clubs

Juliet Prowse, the tall, leggy dancer with the sultry smile and the bee-sting lips who became a tabloid celebrity when she offended Khrushchev and captivated Frank Sinatra, died yesterday at her home in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. She was 59 and had been a staple of Las Vegas nightclub acts, television specials and touring musicals for more than 30 years.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, a spokesman said.

Although Miss Prowse was an accomplished dancer who had been trained in classical ballet in London and South Africa and had had a successful career in Europe before being discovered in Italy by the choreographer Hermes Pan, Miss Prowse was an unknown in the United States when Mr. Pan recruited her to appear with Mr. Sinatra and Shirley Maclaine in the movie-musical ''Can-Can.''

Then came the day in 1959 when Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, visited the ''Can-Can'' set in Hollywood during a celebrated state visit to the United States and pronounced the entertainment ''immoral.''

Within hours Miss Prowse's scantily-clad image was in virtually every newspaper in America and she was being hailed by Hollywood as another Betty Grable.

Miss Prowse, who knew propaganda when she heard it translated (Khrushchev had been all smiles during the visit, she said), was nonplused. ''Let's face it,'' she said. ''the cancan is a pretty raucous number. It's not exactly 'Swan Lake.' ''

Although she won enthusiastic praise for both her acting and her dancing in ''Can-Can,'' Miss Prowse was two decades late for the era of the big Hollywood musical and she appeared in only a few, largely forgettable movies, among them, ''The Second Time Around,'' with Debbie Reynolds; ''Who Killed Teddy Bear?'' with Sal Mineo, and ''G.I. Blues,'' with Elvis Presley.

But the Khrushchev remark, a romance with Mr. Sinatra (they were engaged for six weeks in 1962) and a simultaneous fling with Mr. Presley made her an enduring darling of the gossip columns and enhanced her popularity as a television and night club performer.

Juliet Prowse, whose father was a British manager for Westinghouse who died when she was 3, was born in Bombay, India, and grew up in South Africa, where she emerged as such a skilled dancer that at 14 she was the ''baby ballerina'' star of the Festival Ballet in Johannesburg.

At 17 she was pursuing her career in London, but had to switch to modern dance when she grew too tall, 5-7, for her partners. ''When I got on my toes,'' she said, ''some of those male partners were way down there.''

A part in the London production of ''Kismet'' led to an engagement at a celebrated topless dance club in Paris, but Miss Prowse was not allowed to appear uncovered.

''I was considered English,'' she later said. ''In those shows, nudity was the guarded right of the French and German girls.''

She later appeared in Madrid, helped form what amounted to a traveling review and was dancing in Rome when she was spotted by Mr. Pan, Fred Astaire's longtime collaborator, who was so impressed by her grace and skill that he told friends she was the best feminine dancer he had ever seen.

Miss Prowse never became a major movie star, but in the years after ''Can-Can,'' she was rarely out of work partly because, for all her gossip column celebrity, she was a hard-working, disciplined professional whose performances were almost always well received.

She made a virtual career touring in ''Mame' and won such acclaim for her Las Vegas performance in ''Sweet Charity,'' in 1966, that the show was taken to London, where Miss Prowse won the British equivalent of a Tony Award.

After she broke off her engagement with Mr. Sinatra, Miss Prowse settled down to a series of long-term relationships but generally avoided matrimony. There was a brief early marriage she never talked about, and in 1980, just after giving birth to their son, she married John McCook, an actor. They were later divorced.

To those who worked with her, Miss Prowse's most striking feature was neither her long, shapely legs nor her dancing skills, but her sunny disposition and her perpetual good cheer even in the face of one disaster or another, like the time in 1987 when she was mauled by a leopard while rehearsing for a television special called ''Circus of the Stars.''

As her longtime manager, Mark Mordoh, noted yesterday, none of her friends were surprised that Miss Prowse was convinced that the same dedication and hard work that had brought her a successful show business career would lead to a victory over her cancer, discovered in 1994.

''Even while she was getting chemotherapy,'' Mr. Mordoh said, ''she was teaching yoga classes.''

Miss Prowse is survived by her son, Seth McCook, of Los Angeles; her mother, Phylis Polte; a brother, Dr. Clive Prowse, both of Vanderbijl Park, South Africa, and her companion, B. J. Allen.

Juliet Prowse; Actress, Dancer on Stage, TV and Film

Juliet Prowse, the dancer and actress who high-kicked her way to fame by performing a saucy cancan before startled Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, died Saturday. She was 59.

She died at her Holmby Hills home after losing a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, according to her spokeswoman, Marcia Groff.

Prowse was an auburn-haired beauty who was once linked romantically to singers Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra--at the same time. Her 37-year Hollywood career included film, stage and television.

But dancing was the true love of the Bombay-born performer, who ended up in movies only because some felt she was was too tall (5 feet, 7 3/4) to be the ballerina that she had studied all her life to be.

Prowse was 22 when she was recruited by 20th Century Fox at the urging of choreographer Hermes Pan, who considered her one of the world's best dancers.

There was no acting for her in her first film, "Can-Can." But the surprise reaction of Khrushchev to her dancing in late 1959 in the movie made her internationally famous.

During a U.S. visit, the Soviet leader stopped in at the Hollywood set where the musical that starred Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine was being filmed. As he watched, Prowse and other dancers performed the cancan for him.

"I thought he was enjoying the dance," Prowse recalled later. But apparently Khrushchev's wife did not. The next day Khrushchev denounced the dance as immoral. And newspapers around the world printed Prowse's picture along with the story.

Prowse turned her attention to acting after that, appearing in eight other films through the mid-1960s.

"I'm learning. I'm going to make it as an actress, although probably not in heavy, serious drama," she told The Times in a 1960 interview.

Movie roles led to her romantic involvement with Sinatra and Presley.

Prowse met Sinatra on the set of "Can-Can" and met Presley a year later while filming "G.I. Blues" with him. For a time she dated both simultaneously.

"I had a date or two with Elvis--he's a nice, polite chap--but we're definitely not a steady item as some columnists say," Prowse said in 1960. "Yes, I see Frank Sinatra quite often. We're good friends. And I'm very tired of some people trying to dig up a 'triangle' situation. It's ridiculous."

In 1962, Prowse became engaged to Sinatra but broke it off after six weeks. "Frank wants me to give up the business," Prowse told celebrity columnist Hedda Hopper shortly before calling the wedding off. "It's a bit of a problem for me. . . ."

Prowse married dancer and choreographer Eddie Frazier in 1969 but separated after eight months. Her 1972 marriage to actor John McCook was delayed five weeks when Prowse gave birth to the pair's son, Seth, an hour before wedding vows were scheduled to be exchanged.

Born to an Englishman working in India, Prowse was 3 when her father died and her mother took her and her brother to Durban, South Africa, to live with relatives.

"I'd been dancing ever since I could walk, so when I was 4 and my mother had to go to work, she sent me to dancing class," Prowse recalled later. "It was largely a means of keeping me happy and out of mischief."

But Prowse was so talented that she was dancing with Johannesburg's Festival Ballet by age 14. She was performing with Teatro Madrid in Spain when 20th Century Fox cabled her to come to Hollywood.

Along with her roles in "Can-Can" and "G.I. Blues," Prowse starred in "The Fiercest Heart," "The Right Approach" and "Second Time Around" for the studio in 1960 and 1961. She later starred in "An American Wife," "Dingaka," "Who Killed Teddy Bear?" and "Run for Your Wife" for other studios before her film career stalled.

She starred in the television series "Mona McCluskey"--a sitcom about a movie star married to an Air Force sergeant--that was canceled after one season in 1966. "Things generally happen for the best. I never worry about what happens in my career, because I can always do something else," she told an interviewer afterward.

Prowse performed steadily on television in the 1970s and '80s, appearing often on specials.

She attracted a flurry of publicity in 1987 when she was mauled by an 80-pound leopard during rehearsals at Cal State Northridge for a "Circus of the Stars" television show. She returned to work after receiving five stitches in her neck.

The same animal attacked Prowse again 2 1/2 months later at the NBC-TV studios in Burbank as she was rehearsing for an appearance on the "Tonight Show." That time, about 30 stitches were required for wounds to Prowse's neck and ear.

After that incident, Prowse, an animal lover, vowed to restrict future performances to animals "no bigger than an alley cat."

Prowse is survived by her son, Seth McCook, her mother, a brother and longtime companion B.J. Allen. Services were not immediately announced.

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