Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cyd Charisse (1922-2008)

Birth name: Tula Ellice Finklea
Birthdate: Wednesday, March 8th, 1922
Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA

Died: Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Cause of death: Heart attack

Best known for: American actress and dancer known for her endless legs and elegant style opposite the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in a number of musicals in the 1940s and 50s, including Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953). She was nominated for a Golden Globe in 1958 for the previous year's Silk Stockings, losing out to Kay Kendall and Taina Elg for Les Girls.

Cyd cottoned on quickly to the decline of the blockbuster MGM musicals in the late 1950s, and retired from dancing after playing showgirl Vicky Gaye in 1958's Party Girl opposite Robert Taylor. Instead she concentrated on straightforward acting, in romantic comedies and the occasional serious role too - Black Tights (1961), The Silencers (1966), Maroc 7 (1967) and Warlords of the Deep (1978).

By the 1970s Cyd had begun to fall into the usual routine that became many Hollywood legends of the era - guest star parts in TV shows such as Hawaii Five-O (1978), The Love Boat (1979), Fantasy Island (1978 and 1983), The Fall Guy (1984), Murder, She Wrote (1985) and Crazy Like a Fox (1986).

Cyd as she appeared in Janet Jackson's Alright video in 1990
(left) and Blue Mercedes's I Want to Be Your Property (1987)
Cyd even made appearances in a couple of music videos around this time - firstly, the North American version of Blue Mercedes's I Want to Be Your Property (1987), in which she rolls back the decades and kicks up her heels just like she used to. Cyd was 65 in this video, but you'd never guess it. There's even a line in the song saying: "I want to live like Cyd Charisse, in a great big house by the sea"!

Then, three years later, a 68-year-old Cyd is showing Janet Jackson some moves in her video for the single Alright. Again, Cyd can still do it, and the awed look on Janet's face says it all.

And as if schmoozing with the Jacksons wasn't enough, in 1990 Cyd also produced her own keep fit video, Easy Energy Shape Up, aimed at active senior citizens, and two years later finally made her Broadway debut in the musical Grand Hotel as ageing ballerina Elizaveta Grushinskaya, replacing Liliane Montevecchi.

By the 1990s, as Cyd reached her 70th year, she entered semi-retirement, with only three more screen roles remaining. On April 28th, 1995, Cyd played Amanda Richardson in an episode of detective series Burke's Law called Who Killed the Highest Bidder?, while in November of that year she was the celebrity caller to Frasier Crane's radio show in the episode The Adventures of Bad Boy and Dirty Girl.

Cyd in 2008, the year she died, with her
second husband Tony Martin
It would be 13 years before Cyd would act again, and for the final time. She played Vicky Adams in the $1m TV movie Empire State Building Murders, which was a loving tribute to American film noir and the icons of its heyday. Of course, most of those icons were long gone by 2008, but Cyd was still hanging on, aged 86, and appeared alongside Kirk Douglas, Mickey Rooney, Ben Gazzara, Anne Jeffreys and Richard Erdman.

Empire State Building Murders was broadcast on August 14th, four weeks after Cyd actually passed away. On Monday, June 16th, 2008, Cyd was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in LA after suffering a heart attack. She died the following day, aged 86. As a practicing Methodist (she was an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church), she was buried at Hillside Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery in Culver City, California.

Here's the classic routine between Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in the Broadway Melody section of the 1952 classic Singin' in the Rain. Those legs...!

No comments:

Post a comment

Please add your comments here...