Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Memoriam: Cyd Charisse 1922-2008

Singing in the Rain (1952)

Cyd Charisse, dancer and actor of the Hollywood Silver Age, passed away yesterday, apparently of a heart attack.

Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Texas, on March 8, 1922. She began her career as a ballet dancer in Los Angeles and with the Ballet Russes, and married fellow dancer Nico Charisse in Paris in 1939. After the war started, Cyd Charisse returned to Los Angeles where she became a resident dancer for MGM Studios.

Her first break was a short number with Fred Astaire in the Ziegfeld Follies (1946), but it was her "Broadway Melody" dream sequence dance number in Singing in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly that propelled her to stardom. Those legs! It was rumored that MGM had insured each of her legs for a million dollars, but it was a fiction created by the marketing department.

Band Wagon (1953)

Charisse was again paired with Fred Astaire in Band Wagon (1953), which included several fabulous dance numbers. In his autobiography, Astair said of Charisse: "That Cyd! When you've danced with her you stay danced with."

Band Wagon (1953)

In 1954, Charisse was again cast with Gene Kelly, this time in the musical Brigadoon as Fiona. In addition to dancing, Charisse also sang. The song, From This Day On is extremely romantic, Kelly dancing with Charisse, framed by an ancient stone archway.

Charisse made several more films, but the age of the Hollywood Musical was over. Charisse continued to make occasional film, TV, and stage appearances. In November 2006, the president awarded her the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities, the highest honor for a performer.

I can't help but think that there is a wonderful dance in heaven tonight, where both Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire vie for a turn with their beloved partner.



shoeaddict said...

What a glam lady!

Elisabeth said...

So glam; such a sad loss.