Who was Juliet Prowse?
Juliet Anne Prowse was an Indian-born South African-American dancer and actress. Over the course of her four-decade-long career, she appeared in numerous films and TV shows while being extensively active on the stage as well. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), British India, Prowse relocated to South Africa with her mother. She started dancing when she was four years old. In the late 1950s, she was discovered by a talent agent in Paris. When Hollywood finally came calling in 1959, she had already found some success in Europe. In 1960, she appeared in the musical-comedy ‘Can-Can’, which also starred Frank Sinatra. Prowse subsequently was involved in a passionate affair with Sinatra and was even engaged to him for a short period. She later dated her ‘G.I. Blues’ co-star Elvis Presley. After her cinematic career began to fizzle out in the mid-1960s, Prowse became prominently active on television. She played the titular character in the short-lived sitcom ‘Mona McCluskey’. In the later stage of her career, she performed on stage and in the nightclub circuit. Twice married and twice divorced, Prowse died at the age of 59.
Juliet Prowse’s first cinematic appearance was as an uncredited dancer in the 1955 film ‘Gentlemen Marry Brunettes’, in which she got the chance to work with choreographer Jack Cole. She was a club dancer in Paris when a talent agent discovered and subsequently cast her in the role of Claudine in the Walter Lang film ‘Can-Can’ (1960). In the production stage of the film, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev came to the set and watched her now-famous can-can number. He dubbed her dancing as “lascivious, disgusting and immoral”. This ended up garnering the film much media attention, and while it received negative reviews after its release, Prowse was hailed as the best thing in it. She worked with Sinatra again on the 1959 ‘Frank Sinatra Show’.
Prowse shared screen space with Presley in the 1960 musical comedy ‘G.I. Blues’. She played a club dancer named Lili, with whom Presley’s character, U.S. Army Specialist 5 (SP5) Tulsa McLean, becomes enamoured. That year, she also made her TV debut in an episode of ‘Adventures in Paradise’. In 1961, she starred opposite Stuart Whitman in the adventure film ‘The Fiercest Heart’. She also appeared in two other films that year, ‘The Right Approach’ and ‘The Second Time Around’. By the mid-1960s, she was rarely getting film offers. She appeared in the Italian comedy ‘Una moglie americana’ (1965), the South African action-drama ‘Dingaka (1964), and the American comedy-mystery ‘Who Killed Teddy Bear’ (1965).
After making a series of guest appearances in various TV shows, Prowse landed the role of the titular lead protagonist in NBC’s sitcom ‘Mona McCluskey’. It premiered in September 1965 and was cancelled after airing 26 episodes. Her final screen role was in a season four episode of CBS’ mystery-drama series ‘Murder, She Wrote’.
Despite the setbacks she endured in her career, Prowse was never out of work. She became very successful as a stage and nightclub dancer, headlining multiple Las Vegas shows. She was awarded the Entertainer of the Year accolade for the Las Vegas run of ‘Sweet Charity’. Distinguished by her long legs, husky voice, and pouty lips, she took part in successful advertising campaigns for numerous brands, including L'eggs hosiery and Mannington Flooring. Prowse served as the host of the ‘Championship Ballroom Dance Competition’ in the 1980s and 1990s.
You May Like
Continue Reading Below
Family & Personal Life
Born on September 25, 1936, in Bombay, British India, Juliet Prowse was the daughter of an English travelling salesman born in South Africa. Prowse’s father passed away when she was three years old. She and her mother then moved to South Africa. According to her mother, she demonstrated a natural ability for dancing even before she could walk. As a result, her mother enrolled her in a ballet class. By the time she turned 14, she was performing with the Johannesburg's Festival Ballet in ‘Swan Lake’, ‘Coppelia’ and ‘Les Sylphides’. Prowse dropped out of college to immerse herself completely into dancing. She studied under Johannesburg-based ballet teacher Marjorie Sturmm before going to London, England, to continue honing her craft. However, after encountering some professional disappointments, she switched to show dancing.
Prowse was in a relationship with fellow dancer and one-time mentor, Sergio Fadini. They were part of a dancing trio called the Prowse Dancers. After moving to US, she entered into a relationship with Frank Sinatra. They even got engaged in 1962, only to part ways a short while later. During the filming of ‘G.I Blues’, she had a brief but passionate affair with her co-star Elvis Presley.
Prowse was married to her first husband, Eddie James, for over a year, from June 1, 1969, to November 12, 1970. She exchanged wedding vows with TV actor John McCook on September 9, 1972. The couple divorced on September 5, 1979. Their son, Seth McCook, was born on August 2, 1972.
She passed away on September 14, 1996, after losing a long battle to pancreatic cancer.
In 1987, Prowse survived two different attacks by the same leopard while filming for two different movies.