Cyd Charisse Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (37)  | Personal Quotes (7)

Overview (5)

Born in Amarillo, Texas, USA
Died in Los Angeles, California, USA  (complications from a heart attack)
Birth NameTula Ellice Finklea
Nicknames Maria Istomina
Felia Sidorova
Maria Istomena
Natacha Tulaelis
Celia Siderova
Height 5' 7½" (1.71 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1921 in Amarillo, Texas. Born to be a dancer, she spent her early childhood taking ballet lessons and joined the Ballet Russe at age 13. In 1939, she married Nico Charisse, her former dance teacher. In 1943, she appeared in her first film, Something to Shout About (1943), billed as Lily Norwood. The same year, she played a Russian dancer in Mission to Moscow (1943), directed by Michael Curtiz. In 1945, she was hired to dance with Fred Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies (1945), and that uncredited appearance got her a seven-year contract with MGM. She appeared in a number of musicals over the next few years, but it was Singin' in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly that made her a star. That was quickly followed by her great performance in The Band Wagon (1953). As the 1960s dawned, musicals faded from the screen, as did her career. She made appearances on television and performed in a nightclub revue with her second husband, singer Tony Martin. Cyd Charisse died at age 87 of a heart attack on June 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Tony Fontana <tony.fontana@spacebbs.com>

Spouse (2)

Tony Martin (15 May 1948 - 17 June 2008) ( her death) ( 1 child)
Nico Charisse (12 August 1939 - 17 February 1947) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (37)

She danced with the Ballet Russe using the names Maria Istomina and Felia Sidorova.
Took her name Cyd from a nickname originated from her brother. Initially, he could not say sister and called her Sid. She took the nickname and convinced her agent to keep the name with the present spelling. He feared that Sid was too masculine.
Although one of the greatest female dancers in the history of the movie musical, her singing in films was almost always dubbed, most notably by Carol Richards in Brigadoon (1954) and a young Vikki Carr in The Silencers (1966).
Aunt, by marriage, of actress Nana Visitor, Ian Tucker and Zan Charisse. Mother-in-law of Liv Lindeland.
Was "the other woman" in Marilyn Monroe's last and unfinished film Something's Got to Give (1962).
In 1952, she had a $5-million insurance policy accepted on her legs.
In Call Her Mom (1972), she was originally to have done the role played by Gloria DeHaven, but was replaced by Ann Miller before DeHaven finally took over the role.
When casting the film Damn Yankees (1958), the studio was initially interested in pursuing Cyd as Lola and Cary Grant as Applegate. In the end, Gwen Verdon won the right to recreate her stage role with Ray Walston the devilish Applegate. Cyd was supposedly unavailable but later played the role on the legit stage.
Lost out on two of MGM's biggest movie musical roles. She fell and injured her knee during a dance leap on a film, which forced her out of the role of Nadina Hale in Easter Parade (1948). Ann Miller replaced her. She also had to relinquish the lead female role in An American in Paris (1951) due to pregnancy. Leslie Caron took over the role and became a star.
Was offered the lead role of Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957) but declined. The role was eventually played by Audrey Hepburn.
Has one son with her second husband, Tony Martin: Tony Martin Jr.
Her daughter-in-law, Sheila Charisse, was killed in the May 25, 1979, crash of American Airlines flight 191 shortly after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 2006 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, DC, for her services to dance.
Has two sons: Nicholas Charisse (born May 7, 1942) and Tony Martin Jr. (born August 28, 1950).
Unlike many top female dancers in the era of movie musicals, she was trained as a ballerina in the Russian tradition.
The director of the Ballet Russe dance company, Col. W. de Basil visited the school and saw her dance. He invited her to join his company, and she toured with it. In 1939, while she was in France on tour with the ballet company, she and Nico Charisse eloped. They had one son, Nico Charisse Jr., before their marriage ended in divorce in 1947.
During a family vacation in Los Angeles when she was 12, her parents enrolled her in ballet classes at a school in Hollywood. One of her teachers was Nico Charisse.
Grew up in the Texas dust-bowl town of Amarillo. Her Baptist jeweler father Ernest, a closet balletomane, encouraged her to begin her ballet lessons for health reasons. Her mother was named Lela Norwood Finklea.
Her father, Ernest Enos Finklea, Jr., was a jeweler. Her mother was Lela Norwood Finklea.
Said her husband could tell who she had been dancing with that day on an MGM set. If she came home covered with bruises, it was the very demanding Gene Kelly, if not, it was the smooth and agile Fred Astaire.
Met first husband Nico Charisse, as a very young dancer. She had studied with him for a time in Los Angeles. They married in Paris in 1939 when she was still a teenager. When the Ballet Russe disbanded after World War II broke out, the newlyweds moved to Hollywood.
First started taking lessons at the encouragement of her father, Ernest. She was frail and sickly at the time and had a bout with polio. Dance lessons were encouraged to build up her strength and she took to it quickly.
Got her start in Hollywood when Ballet Russe star David Lichine was hired by Columbia Pictures for a ballet sequence in the musical Something to Shout About (1943). Cyd, who was then billed as Lily Norwood, appeared in the scene and attracted attention. Movie offers, including a dancing role opposite Fred Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies (1945), led to a seven-year contract offer by MGM.
First gained notice with the famed Ballet Russe, becoming a member of the corps de ballet at age 14 and touring the United States and Europe. The company requested that their members use Russian-sounding names so she was billed at different times Natacha Tulaelis, Celia Siderova and Maria Istromena.
Fred Astaire, in his 1959 memoir "Steps in Time", referred to Cyd as "beautiful dynamite".
She and husband Tony Martin became a popular song-and-dance couple on television and in nightclubs/cabaret shows after their heyday in film.
Her dark looks initially had her cast as ethnic beauties. She was cast as Ricardo Montalban's fiancée in Fiesta (1947) and as a Polynesian in the Esther Williams musical On an Island with You (1948).
She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine St. on February 8, 1960.
She was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in Austin in March 2002.
One of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies; the others were Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Caron.
Prior to her feature film debut in Something to Shout About (1943) (filmed in 1942), she appeared in at least six Soundies--short musical films played in the popular television-like jukeboxes of that era. Her actual film debut may have most likely been in the low-budget exploitation film Escort Girl (1941) (copyrighted 4 November 1941), in which an uncredited dancer looking amazingly like Cyd does a number--very much in Cyd's unique style--in a café sequence.
Although she is interred in a niche at Hillside Memorial Park, a well-known Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles, Charrise was in fact a practicing Methodist. Her funeral was even presided over by Dr. Gary Allen Dicky, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westlake Village.
Is one of several, if not only, world renowned prima ballerinas to be featured in a popular hip-hop music video. She had a cameo in "Alright" (1990) by Janet Jackson.
She was an honorary member of the National Federation of Republican Women along with Laraine Day, Rhonda Fleming and Coleen Gray.
Following her death, she was interred at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
At age 70, she made a disastrous Broadway debut as a replacement in the long-running "Grand Hotel." She couldn't sing and had been dubbed in all her movies.

Personal Quotes (7)

[on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly] I can watch Astaire anytime. I don't think he ever made a wrong move. He was a perfectionist. He would work on a few bars for hours until it was just the way he wanted it. Gene was the same way. They both wanted perfection, even though they were completely different personalities.
[on Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly] Fred could never do the lifts Gene did and never wanted to. I'd say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on the screen. Each has a distinctive style. Each is a joy to work with. But it's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both delicious.
[on explaining why she never tapped on-screen] I was pulled up as a ballet dancer and I wasn't used to pounding the floor with bent knees.
The censors were always there when I was on the set. When I was held up, in a lift [in Deep in My Heart (1954)], they were up on ladders to see if I was properly covered.
Fred [Astaire] moved like glass. Physically, it was easy to dance with him. It was not as demanding on me. I didn't need the same vitality and strength.
If I had to give up either acting or dancing, I'd choose to keep dancing.
[When Gene Kelly asked what she would like engraved on her gravestone] People sometimes had a problem placing her face, but they never forgot her pins.

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