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JULIET PROWSE, 59, ACTRESS, DANCER IN 1960S TELEVISION, MOVIE ROLES.

Byline: E. Scott Reckard Associated Press

Juliet Prowse, who parlayed skillful dancing, sultry good looks and the best legs since Betty Grable into stardom in '60s movies and TV specials, died Saturday. She was 59 and had suffered from pancreatic cancer.

She died at 3:30 a.m. at home in Holmby Hills, spokeswoman Marcia N. Groff said.

The unlikely combination of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Nikita Khrushchev made the former South African ballerina famous within months of her arrival in the United States in her early 20s.

Producer Hal Wallis predicted the tall redhead would be ``buying Rolls-Royces before long . . . a big star.''

While her film career didn't soar as long or high as many predicted, she had lasting success in television specials, stage musicals and nightclubs, often commanding thousands of dollars a week.

In 1965-66, she starred in a sitcom, ``Mona McCluskey,'' about a movie star married to an Air Force sergeant. She was philosophical about its cancellation after just one season.

``Things generally happen for the best,'' she told the Associated Press shortly afterward. ``I never worry about what happens in my career, because I can always do something else.''

She was in the news even before her first major Hollywood movie came out, the 1960 musical ``Can-Can,'' starring Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine.

When filming was under way in the fall of 1959, Soviet leader Khrushchev was visiting the United States. He was a guest on the set, and the dancers performed the cancan for him.

The next day, Khrushchev roundly denounced the dance as immoral, and the then-unknown Prowse's picture was seen in newspapers around the world.

``I thought he was enjoying the dance,'' Prowse said later. ``He was very kind through his interpreter to me afterwards. I did notice that his wife said nothing.''

For a while, she juggled romances with Sinatra and Presley, star of her second film, ``G.I. Blues.'' (Explaining her dates with Presley, she said, ``Frank and I are mature people. We don't go for this teen-age bit about going steady and all that jazz.'')

She later became engaged to Sinatra, but broke it off after six weeks in early 1962 - generating another blizzard of publicity.

Born in India and raised in South Africa, Prowse trained as a ballerina, dancing with Johannesburg's Festival Ballet when she was just 14. What scuttled her ballet career was her height - 5 feet 8 inches.

``When I got on my toes, some of those male partners were way down there,'' she joked.

She embarked on a lucrative career as a dancer in European night clubs and was appearing in Rome when she was noticed by famed Hollywood choreographer Hermes Pan.

He was preparing ``Can-Can,'' and Prowse landed a role.

In September 1987, Prowse was mauled by an 80-pound leopard during rehearsals for a special called ``Circus of the Stars.''

She received five stitches but returned to complete filming her part of the show after recovering from the wound.

She had no more trouble with the leopard until a few months later, when she was mauled again by the same cat while preparing for a ``Tonight'' show appearance to promote the ``Circus of the Stars'' broadcast. She needed 30 to 40 stitches to reattach part of her left ear.

Prowse was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1994. Last year it was in remission and she was well enough to perform in Las Vegas, but the illness returned, said Mark Mordoh, her manager of 30 years.

Survivors include her son, Seth McCook, her mother, a brother and longtime companion B.J. Allen.

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Photo: Actress and dancer Juliet Prowse performs the cancan in 1962.

Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Sep 15, 1996
Words:612
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