In Memoriam: Cyd CharisseToday the Hollywood firmament lost one of the last great stars from the Golden Age of movie musicals, Cyd Charisse. She studied under Najinkska in the '30s and danced with the Ballet Rousse till the outbreak of the War. From there she came to the attention of MGM studios where she was given specialty ballet numbers until it became apparent that Charisse's star quality deserved more than an occasional number here and there. Soon she became the partner of choice of both of Hollywood's greatest dancing men, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. She is best known for her work in The Band Wagon, Singing in the Rain, Silk Stockings, It's Always Fair Weather, Brigadoon and others.
I first became aware of Cyd Charisse when I developed an unnatural affinity for Fred Astaire movies as a child. Even late in her career Charisse graced Broadway with an appearance in Grand Hotel in the '90s to the delight of her die-hard fans. The show quite famously capitalized on her popularity with one of those man-on-the-street commercials where an elderly lady hilariously proclaimed in a thick New York accent "I LOVE huh! I LOVE huh!" And so did I. Cyd Charisse was 86.
Just in case you need a reminder of her brilliance as a dancer, check out the clip from the Broadway Melody sequence from Singing in the Rain with Gene Kelly.