With a full-on, head-to-toe leopard print outfit, a still-booming career in theater, and – at eighty years old – the body of a lanky teenager, Liliane says she isn’t afraid of anything. “On the park gates where I grew up, it’s written, ‘interdit de marcher’ – forbidden to enter.” Growing up in Paris, her mother always told her to go in anyway. “I have this joie de vivre because she gave it to me,” Liliane says, of the notion that nothing was forbidden to her. By age fifty, Liliane had a Tony Award for Tommy Tune’s smash musical Nine in a role written for and named after her. “I remember [my audition] was in the middle of the Winter, and I had a mink coat dragging on the floor and an enormous hat like Greta Garbo. They were a little bit astonishing by what I was wearing. I said, ‘Well, it’s cold outside!’ They said, ‘could you sing something?’ I said, ‘No! I don’t have a pianist. I don’t want to sing. But I would adore to have dinner with you… and that pleased Mr. Tune very much.” She wound up singing La Vie en Rose acapella and two days later she got a call from Tune’s agent.
Liliane says that she was “born a star,” with her feet turned out and “one foot above her head,” ready to become a prima ballerina (which she later did). Her mother, a milliner and dressmaker for Balenciaga who dressed with extraordinary care (Liliane reflects that she never saw her without her make-up until the day she died), got them arrested in Spain in the ’50s for how short Liliane’s dress was. “She wanted everyone to see her daughter’s legs.” During the war, when they barely had enough to eat, Liliane’s mother made her coats out of blankets, dresses out of drapes, and wooden shoes wrapped in the same material to match– a dress a day, so she never had to wear the same thing twice. So, when Liliane later saw feathers in a shop she loved, naturally she had them made into a dress by her favorite designer, Mark Bouwer (whom she intentionally supported for being, at the time, a total unknown). “You do not have to have money to be chic,” she says, wearing a fringe suede jacket that she bought in a Texas thrift shop.
It’s that “I-can-do-anything” attitude that found Liliane in Hollywood with a seven-year studio contract in the ’50s, despite not speaking a word of English. When the producer John Houseman saw her dancing with her ballet company in NYC, he had to have her audition. She read a part from For Whom The Bell Tolls phonetically, but added that she “must have looked cute.” During her seminal years learning how to sing, tap dance, and fence, Marlon Brando took her aside during the filming of Young Lions and tutored her. “He made me think of the part I was playing… from the inside.” Montgomery Clift took her to the Actor’s Studio, where she met and roomed with Marilyn Monroe. She hunted ducks with Clark Gable in Oregon. Her diamond rings, given to her by “the man she adores, but does not see enough,” didn’t command attention until he gave her twenty-five of them, one for each year of their relationship, that she now stacks on her fingers, just as the movies never fully satisfied Liliane’s passion for the thrill of the moment on stage. In the theater, she says, “You are with the public. You don’t cheat. If they don’t like you, they don’t like you. If they love you, they love you.” When asked what her most memorable role is, she says, “None. It’s yet to come.”