Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

Cyd Charisse, 1921-2008

In the grand Hollywood musicals, Cyd Charisse was the one dance queen who radiated sex, wrapping her long, strong python legs around her male costars, reducing them to boy-toys. In Singin' in the Rain's "Broadway Melody Ballet” she is both slithering vamp and luscious bride to Gene Kelly; in the "Girl Hunt” number in The Band Wagon, she's Fred Astaire's chameleonic femme fatale, matching his moves in jazz, ballet and Broadway idioms. A Texas girl, born Tula Finklea, she danced with the Ballet Russe under Russian pseudonyms before MGM re-Americanized her. Charisse's movie reign was brief, just the fabulous '50s, after which she toured night clubs with her husband, crooner Tony Martin. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a month before her death.

Richard Corliss