Tuesday, June 17, 2008

CYD CHARISSE, March 8, 1922 - June 17, 2008

Cyd Charisse Mar 8, 1922- June 17, 2008
The beautiful and talented Cyd Charisse passed away today. She was 87. If you love old movies, and especially musicals or dance movies, you will know her as the tall, long-legged beauty who partnered such wonderful dancers as Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in the 1950s and 60s. She appeared in classics like Singing in the Rain, Brigadoon, The Band Wagon, and It's Always Fair Weather.

Having been brought up watching all those wonderful old films, and being completely besotted by dance, I idolized Cyd Charisse's beauty, grace and skill. And what a great pair of legs! It was rumoured they'd been insured by MGM in the 50s for a million dollars apiece; while that may just have been a Hollywood marketing strategy, either way she had two of the most gorgeous legs in the business, and she certainly knew how to dance! All the more extraordinary given that she had taken up dancing as a type of therapy when recovering from polio as a child, going on to join the incomparable Ballet Russe at the tender age of 13.

She was later honoured at the White House by George Bush, Sr, who presented her with the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities. She danced all her life, was married to the same man, Tony Martin, for 60 years (which has to be a Hollywood record!!), and acted, danced or appeared in scores of films and TV shows (including Frazier!). What a lady!

I do feel a little remiss at not making mention in this blog of the recent death of Yves Saint Laurent, who after all has been so important to women the world over (he was the first designer EVER to put women in pants, after all!), but Cyd Charisse is closer to my heart. I spent so many Sunday afternoons (why is it always raining on Sunday afternoons in my memory??) watching these old films on our black and white TV and wanting to model myself after her, and other beautiful actresses and dancers. It's clear I was deeply influenced by the aesthetic of the time (40s-50-60s), as for me, the ideal of the gracefully arched instep, long legs and small-waisted hourglass figure still inspires me in my designs today.

I hope you enjoy these lovely old photos!
Please clik on them to get a clearer view :)

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