2006 National Medal of Arts
Dancer, Los Angeles, CA
Cyd Charisse is one of Hollywood's greatest dancers best known for two acclaimed
dance sequences, the "Broadway Melody Ballet" from the movie Singin'
in the Rain with Gene Kelly and the "Girl Hunt Ballet" from
The Band Wagon. As Fred Astaire so aptly stated about his favorite
partner Cyd Charisse, "When you've danced with her, you stay danced
Cyd Charisse grew up in Amarillo, Texas and spent her early childhood taking
ballet lessons. She joined the Ballet Russe at age 13 touring with the company
in the U.S. and Europe, using the stage names of Maria Istomina and Felia
Sidorova. In 1939 she married Nico Charisse, a former dance teacher.
Four years later, she appeared in her first film as Lily Norwood in Something
to Shout About followed that same year by Mission to Moscow.
In 1946, she was cast in Ziegfeld Follies, dancing with Fred Astaire.
Although that film did not include her in the credits, it did lead to a
seven-year contract with MGM and a series of films that propelled her career
not only as a talented and beautiful dancer but also a compelling actress.
Other musicals over the next several years include The Harvey Girls
with Judy Garland (1946), Words and Music (1948) and East Side
West Side (1948). But it was Singing in the Rain (1948) that
really made her a star. After the enormous success of that film, Charisse
gave a wonderful performance in The Band Wagon with Fred Astaire
(1953) followed by Brigadoon (1954) and It's Always Fair Weather,
both with Gene Kelly (1955), and Silk Stockings (1957) among others.
In 1952 she made national headlines by taking out a $5-million insurance
policy on her legs.
She has been involved in 14 theater productions including Damn Yankees,
Cactus Flower, and Grand Hotel. In the 1960s, musicals faded
in popularity and Charisse's career reflected that shift in audience preferences.
She appeared on television and performed in a nightclub revue with her second
husband, singer Tony Martin.
2006 National Medal of Arts recipient and dancer, actress Cyd Charisse accepts her award from President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony on November 9, 2006. Ms. Charisse's citation reads, "An American icon, she has entertained millions throughout her career with her many stunning performances." White House photo by Paul Morse
< 2006 National Medal of Arts press release
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