Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1921 in Amarillo, Texas. She took her name Cyd from a nickname her brother called her. He called her sid, short for sister. She took the nickname and convinced her agent to keep the name. He feared that Sid was too masculine, so it was changed to Cyd. I’m going on record as saying NOTHING was masculine about Cyd Charisse!
Below are more facts about an uncommonly beautiful and talented actress and dancer.
- Her first credited film role was “Lily” in the 1943 musical Something to Shout About.
- In 1952, she took a $5-million insurance policy on her legs.
- She was “the other woman” in Marilyn Monroe’s last film Something’s Got to Give (1962).
- Lost out on two of MGM’s most celebrated 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 in 1948. Ann Miller replaced her as the nasty Nadina. A pregnancy prevented her from taking the lead female role in An American in Paris in 1951. Leslie Caron took the role and became a star.
- She once pointed out that her husband could tell who she had been dancing with that day on the 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.
- Started taking dancing lessons on the advice of her father. She was very frail and sickly at the time (following a bout with polio). Dance lessons were encouraged to build up her strength. She obviously responded beautifully! She was trained as a ballerina in the Russian tradition prior to taking Hollywood by storm.
- Cyd was offered the role of Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957) but declined. Audrey Hepburn would go on to play the role.
- Appeared with Ricardo Montalban in six movies: Fiesta (1947), On an Island with You (1948), The Kissing Bandit (1948), The Mark of the Renegade (1951), Sombrero (1953) and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976).
- In his wonderful memoir “Steps in Time“, Fred Astaire referred to Cyd as “beautiful dynamite.”
- She was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine St. on February 8, 1960.
- Cyd Charisse was one of few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly onscreen. The other lucky ladies were Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Caron.
- She had a cameo in Janet Jackson’s music video for “Alright” in 1990.