LOS ANGELES - Cyd Charisse, the long-legged Texas beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, died Tuesday. She was 86.Cyd Charisse was always there; present, ready, in control with the ability to go beyond the call of duty. Read the whole thing HERE.
Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack, said her publicist, Gene Schwam.
She appeared in dramatic films, but her fame came from the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.
Classically trained, she could dance anything, from a pas de deux in 1946's "Ziegfeld Follies" to the lowdown Mickey Spillane satire of 1956's "The Band Wagon" (with Astaire).
She also forged a popular song-and-dance partnership on television and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Martin.
Her height was 5 feet, 6 inches, but in high heels and full-length stockings, she seemed serenely tall, and she moved with extraordinary grace. Her flawless beauty and jet-black hair contributed to an aura of perfection that Astaire described in his 1959 memoir, "Steps in Time," as "beautiful dynamite."
Charisse arrived at MGM as the studio was establishing itself as the king of musicals. Three producers — Arthur Freed, Joe Pasternak and Jack Cummings — headed units that drew from the greatest collection of musical talent. Dancers, singers, directors, choreographers, composers, conductors and a symphony-size orchestra were under contract and available. The contract list also included the screen's two greatest male dancers: Astaire and Kelly.
Astaire, who danced with her in "The Band Wagon" and "Silk Stockings," said of Charisse in a 1983 interview: "She wasn't a tap dancer, she's just beautiful, trained, very strong in whatever we did. When we were dancing, we didn't know what time it was."
She first gained notice as a member of the famed Ballet Russe, and got her start in Hollywood when star David Lichine was hired by Columbia Pictures for a ballet sequence in a 1943 Don Ameche-Janet Blair musical, "Something to Shout About."
Although that film failed to live up to its title, its ballet sequence attracted wide notice, and Charisse (then billed as Lily Norwood) began receiving movie offers.
"I had just done that number with David as a favor to him," she said in "The Two of Us," her 1976 double autobiography with Martin. "Honestly, the idea of working movies had never once entered my head. I was a dancer, not an actress. I had no delusions about myself. I couldn't act — I had never acted. So how could I be a movie star?"
She overcame her doubts and signed a seven-year contract at MGM. She also got a new name, the exotic "Cyd" instead of her lifelong nickname Sid, to go with her first husband's last name.
The 1952 classic "Singin' in the Rain" marked a breakthrough.
Whether working with Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, she adapted to her partner's way of working and the proof ended up on the screen.
Thank you Cyd, for bringing so much joy to my life. My childhood fantasy was to dance with you; to lift you high, and bring you back down to "engage" in the dance.
Thankfully, your image and talent remains on film. You will always be with us.
Thanks for everything.