facebook youtube twitter Pinterest

IBDB: Internet Broadway Database
The Broadway League

Official Broadway League sites:

Quick Search For:   In This Category:  

Cyd Charisse

( b. Mar 08, 1922 Amarillo, Texas, USA - d. Jun 17, 2008 Los Angeles, California, USA ) Female
Also known as: Tula Ellice Finklea [Birthname]
Relations: Aunt of Zan Charisse
Aunt of Nana Visitor
Aunt of Ian Tucker
Sister of Nenette Charisse

Ms. Charisse came of age in a sparkling era of Hollywood musicals, and though she had some dramatic film roles, it was in musicals that she achieved her lasting renown. That fame later helped power a successful song-and-dance partnership with her husband, Tony Martin, in nightclubs and on television.

In his 1959 memoir, "Steps in Time," Astaire called Ms. Charisse "beautiful dynamite." She was a striking presence on film: slender and graceful with jet black hair. She stood 5 feet 6, but in high heels and full-length stockings -- a familiar costume for her -- she seemed even taller.

She made her film debut in 1943 under the name Lily Norwood in "Something to Shout About," with Don Ameche and Janet Blair, and then spent almost a decade performing in small roles and sometimes anonymously before she got her big break. That came with "Singin' in the Rain," released in 1952.

Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, the film established her as one of Hollywood's most glamorous and seductive talents.

Set during the dawn of talking pictures, "Singin' in the Rain" starred Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen. Ms. Charisse appeared in only one of the movie's many indelible dance sequences, but one was enough. During the "Broadway Melody Ballet," opposite Kelly, she was both sultry vamp and diaphanous dream girl.

A year later, "The Band Wagon" brought Ms. Charisse her first leading role. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, with a book by Comden and Green and songs by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz, the film starred Astaire, Ms. Charisse, Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray.

Astaire played a fading Hollywood song-and-dance man hoping to make a comeback on Broadway and who finds himself cast in a show opposite a snooty ballerina (Ms. Charisse). The couple do not see eye-to-eye until they take a nighttime carriage ride through a moonlit Central Park and wind up embracing languorously to the strains of "Dancing in the Dark." One of the most famous sequences from the film, if not in the history of dance on film, is "The Girl Hunt Ballet," in which Ms. Charisse plays the vamp to Astaire's private-eye stage character.

In "Brigadoon" (1954), also directed by Minnelli and adapted from the 1947 Broadway show by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, Kelly and Van Johnson played American tourists who stumble on a mysterious Scottish village that materializes only once every 100 years. Kelly falls hard for a beautiful villager, Fiona (Ms. Charisse). They danced to "The Heather on the Hill."

Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Tex. Though some sources say she was born on March 8, 1921, her agent said the year was 1922. She began taking dance lessons as a little girl. Her many name changes began, so the story goes, when her brother had trouble pronouncing "sister" and settled for "Sid."

While still a teenager, she was sent to California for professional dance training and quickly became a member of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, a touring troupe, adopting the name Felia Sidorova. She was on a European tour when she met Nico Charisse, a handsome young dancer and dance instructor. They married in Paris when she was 18. In 1942, they had a son, Nicky.

By the early 1940s, Ms. Charisse had been spotted by studio scouts and her first film roles -- as Lily Norwood -- followed. (She also appeared anonymously in 1943 as a ballerina in "Mission to Moscow.") In 1946, MGM, by then the king of Hollywood musicals, signed her to a contract and gave her minor roles in several films, including "The Harvey Girls," "Till the Clouds Roll By" and "Ziegfeld Follies," in which she danced a brief opening sequence with Astaire. When she was chosen to appear in "Ziegfeld Follies," the producer Arthur Freed preferred the name Charisse to Norwood and changed the spelling of Sid to Cyd.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
Grand Hotel
[Musical, Drama, Original]
  • Performer: Cyd Charisse
        Elizaveta Grushinskaya - Replacement
Nov 12, 1989 - Apr 25, 1992
Find out where Cyd Charisse and are credited together