Prowse, Juliet (1936–1996)

views updated

Prowse, Juliet (1936–1996)

South African dancer and actress. Born on September 25, 1936, in Bombay, India; died on September 14, 1996, in Holmby Hills, California; married (divorced); married actor John McCook (divorced); children: son, Seth.

Selected filmography:

Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955); Can-Can (1960); G.I. Blues (1960); The Fiercest Heart (1961); The Right Approach (1961); The Second Time Around (1961); Who Killed Teddy Bear? (1965); Dingaka (1965); Run for Your Wife (1966); Spree (1967).

Dancer-actress Juliet Prowse was born in Bombay, India, in 1936, but raised in South Africa. From an early age, she studied for the ballet, performing with the Johannesburg Festival Ballet when she was 14. However, when her adult height reached 5'8", she was forced to give up classical dance. "When I got on my toes, some of those male partners were way down there," she later joked. Still in her teens, the leggy redhead set out for the United States and Hollywood, where she made her film debut in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes (1955). Her second film, Can-Can (1960), generated headlines before it was even released, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the set and pronounced the dancing indecent. Prowse's romance with her co-star Frank Sinatra (to whom she was later briefly engaged), and a fling with Elvis Presley during the shoot of her third movie, G.I Blues (1960), also produced a flood of publicity for the fledgling star.

Prowse's movie career did not live up to expectations, but she went on to star in television specials, stage musicals, and nightclubs. In 1965, she was the lead in her own television sitcom, "Mona McCluskey," about a movie star married to an Air Force officer. When the show was canceled after a single season, Prowse remained optimistic. "Things generally happen for the best," she told a reporter at the time. "I never worry about what happens in my career, because I can always do something else."

In September 1987, Prowse made headlines again when she was mauled by a leopard during a rehearsal for a television special, "Circus of the Stars." After receiving five stitches to close the wound, she returned to filming. She had a second run-in with the same leopard while preparing for a "Tonight Show" segment promoting the "Circus of the Stars" broadcast. This time, her left ear was badly torn, requiring close to 40 stitches to reattach it. Prowse, who was married and divorced twice, died of pancreatic cancer in 1996, at age 59.


Greissinger, Lisa Kay. "Passages," in People Weekly. September 30, 1996.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

"Milestones," in Time. September 23, 1996.

"Obituary," in Boston Sunday Globe. September 15, 1996.

Sands, Rich. "Tribute," in TV Guide. October 5, 1996.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

More From