Wednesday, June 18, 2008
RIP Cyd Charisse
The woman with the million dollar legs died last night aged 86, in hospital, after suffering a heart attack on Monday. At the height of her fame her gorgeously long legs were allegedly insured for a million dollars (she later revealed that to be a publicity stunt by the studio).
She was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Texas in 1921, and began dancing with the Ballet Russe as a teenager.
She fell in love with, and married, a young French dancer, Nico Charisse, whom she met whilst on a European tour and who had been her dance teacher in Los Angeles. They married in Paris in 1939, providing Cyd with the surname which would later become so famous.
Her appearance dancing a ballet sequence in the musical 'Something to Shout About' in 1943, attracted the attention of the MGM studio. MGM gave her a seven-year contract and also (as they did in those days) changed her name, adapting her childhood nickname, Sid, to "Cyd".
Her great forte was her dancing, and her natural habitat was the lavish song and dance spectaculars of the 40s and 50s. Although I personally aren't keen on musicals, I can watch her in anything, and the dance sequences in films such as 'Silk Stockings' and 'The Bandwagon' are mesmerising, even for me. She was an undeniably beautiful woman, exuding a lithe, animal grace in her athletic dance sequences. It was often said of her that she wasn't a very good actress, something also said about Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth. I could argue that point; something to do with them all being beautiful and great dancers, and the jealous sniping of lesser mortals. But I won't.
Whatever you think of her acting, you cannot fault her dancing. Just watch this scene from 'The Bandwagon', featuring Cyd and Fred Astaire.
Want more? How about this, from 'Singin' in the Rain', featuring Gene Kelly. From a gorgeous red dress, to a gorgeous green one...
In later years, after the demise of the mucical, and the hollywood bias against starring actresses over 40, her career waned. She was reduced to appearing in shit such as 'Warlords of Atlantis'.
Good bye Cyd. Your legs will still go on forever.