By MIKE CIDONI LENNOX, AP Entertainment Writer
LOS ANGELES — Cinderella has worked happily ever after.
Forty-five years after making a splash with millions of TV viewers as the princess-to-be in “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s `Cinderella,’” Lesley Ann Warren has found renewed success in two TV shows and a recent art-house comedy.
The 64-year-old actress plays an intrusive mom in the movie “A Little Help,” she returned in the spring to “Desperate Housewives” as Teri Hatcher’s mother and on Sunday, her character helps a wedding go awry on the season finale of USA’s “In Plain Sight.”
Warren portrays Jinx, the newly sober, sometimes problematic, always unconventional mother of Witness Protection Program marshal Mary Shannon (Mary McCormack) and bride-to-be Brandi (Nichole Hiltz). Sunday’s finale spins around Brandi’s wedding and Mary being trapped while trying to protect a witness.
Television has been key to Warren’s success almost from the start. She made her Broadway debut in 1963′s “110 in the Shade” and won a Theatre World Award for the 1965 stage flop “Drat! The Cat!” but it was “Cinderella” in 1965 that made her a star. The special was rebroadcast by CBS eight times through February 1974
Remembering “Cinderella” makes Warren’s eyes well with tears. “It was momentous for me to get that role,” she said.
The role’s affect is still evident, she said, and she still gets letters from school children. “To see that it has had an incredible impact on people has moved me beyond expression.”
Watch “In Plain Sight:”
After “Cinderella,” she quickly made the leap to film, co-starring in Disney’s “The Happiest Millionaire” (1967). She returned to TV for “Mission: Impossible” (1970-71) and a Golden Globe-winning role as a prostitute in the 1977 telefilm “Harold Robbins’ ’79 Park Avenue.” Five years later, she played the moll to James Garner’s mobster in Blake Edwards’ 1982 movie “Victor/Victoria,” which earned Warren an Oscar nomination.
“The story about how I got that movie is so crazy, because I was out doing marketing and I had my hair in braids, and I think I had a baseball cap on,” Warren recalled. “My agent … said, `You have to go and meet Blake right now.’ I said, `I can’t.’ He said, `You have to, because he is leaving for London tomorrow.’”
At her meeting with Edwards, the two laughed about Warren playing Cinderella, a role Edwards’ wife, Julie Andrews, had originated. Warren got the part.
“Two weeks later when we were shooting, I said to him, `Why did you cast me in this role?” … And he said, `It was the way you laughed at the meeting.’”
Warren said the key to her longevity was embracing character parts early on.
“You have to be really willing to embrace life and life’s turns, and play that for your audience, because there is value in every moment of that journey,” she said.
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