16 august, 1946
Lithe and lovely Lesley Ann Warren started gearing towards a life in show business right off the bat as a child ballerina; little did she know that Hollywood stardom would arrive on her doorstep in the form of a "Cinderella" story -- literally!
The New York-born actress (born in 1946) was the daughter of a realtor and a night club singer, Margot Warren, who gave up her own entertainment career for marriage and family. Lesley attended New York's Professional Children's School and eventually studied under Lee Strasberg at his Actors Studio, the youngest student to be accepted at the time (age 17). The freckled, talented hopeful gathered musical stage experience in such shows as "Bye Bye Birdie" playing swooning teen Kim McAfee. She made her illustrious Broadway debut in "110 in the Shade", the 1963 musical version of "The Rainmaker," and subsequently received the Theatre World Award for her work in the 1965 tunefest "Drat! The Cat!"
The attention she received immediately led to her capturing the beguiling title role in the Rodgers and Hammerstein TV musical production of Cinderella (1965) (TV). Although sweet-voiced stardom was certainly hers on a silver platter, she didn't necessarily carry the sweet tooth for it. Her impact as Cinderella led to her signing with the Walt Disney Studio as their principal ingénue. Co-starring in the rather blah musical showcases The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968) further convinced her that she needed to nip the saccharine stereotype in the bud if she was to grow as an actress and sustain some type of career longevity.
Rebelling against her studio-imposed image, she left Disney determined to pursue roles with more depth, drama and character. Changing her name temporarily to "Lesley Warren" to reinforce her goal, she replaced Barbara Bain in the long-running espionage series "Mission: Impossible" (1966) in 1970, but the audiences were quite cool in their reception to the "new and improved" Lesley and didn't buy her as a femme-fatale replacement for the cool and aloof Ms. Bain. After only one season, she left the show and sought greener pastures in the TV mini-movie market playing a wide range of vulnerable neurotics as well as sexy, worldly ladies. She made her mark in such sudsy 1970s material as Love Hate Love (1971) (TV) co-starring 'Ryan O'Neal (I)'; The Legend of Valentino (1975) (TV); the rags-to-riches story "Harold Robbins' 79 Park Avenue" (1977), for which she won a Golden Globe award; the epic WWII story "Pearl" (1978); Betrayal (1978) (TV); and Portrait of a Stripper (1979) (TV).
In the early 1980s, Lesley's movie career resurrected itself with a priceless performance as kingpin James Garner's whiny-voiced, peroxide-blonde spitfire Norma Cassady in the musical film slapstick Victor Victoria (1982). This scene-stealing turn led to a couple of other quality offbeat films: Choose Me (1984) and Songwriter (1984), along with the usual quota of TV projects. She also matured into a steamy, sexier "older woman" type and earned some worldly roles opposite various gorgeous young guns, including Christopher Atkins in the critically-drubbed A Night in Heaven (1983). Her riotous "dumb blonde" act, however, had Hollywood discovering her potential as a scatter-brained comedienne, an image she has reinforced over the years with recurring TV guest parts on such popular shows as "Will & Grace" (1998) and "Desperate Housewives" (2004) Lesley has a son, Christopher Peters, from her 1967-1977 union to makeup artist/hair stylist-cum-film producer Jon Peters. Since 2000, she has been married to advertising exec Ronald Taft, a former v.p. at Columbia and sometime actor. From Cinderella to sexy mamas, the effervescent Lesley is still going strong in a career now hitting four-and-a-half decades.