Today marks the 101st birthday of film star Cyd Charisse.
Charisse is one of those people that - if you know *anything* about classic film, you're like "of course, Cyd Charisse". If you don't know who she is, study up.
I'll put my cards on the table and say, Cyd Charisse made quite an impression on me as a young film student. An amazing dancer - maybe one of the five or so best I can think of in film, and seemingly with the most diversity in her dancing bag of tricks, Charisse was also not just movie-star gorgeous, but had a restrained sexiness that the studios deployed with as much taste as possible.
She was a partner of choice for Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and other giants, and it's no wonder. Ballet, modern, whatever was needed for a sequence, she was there and making someone like Gene Kelly somehow look even better as a dancer.
She isn't known for her singing, but she did act - and well. She was given leading parts in films like The Band Wagon and Party Girl, as well as Brigadoon. And she's featured in a non-musical role in Tension as the romantic lead to Richard Basehart's nebbishy pharmacist.
By 1966, she was returning to roles as a featured dancer - and you will remember her in The Silencers if you catch that one (and you should, it's a fun one). She continued working and wound up in the pipeline of former movie stars who would guest on TV shows, appearing on everything from The Love Boat to Murder She Wrote.
Charisse shows up in a lot of movies in stand-alone scenes, scenarios that are a play-within-the play of the film. Which makes for some good clip grabbing on YouTube. But it's a reminder that film wasn't just different at the time, but that the studios trusted what Charisse brought to the screen enough to give her the spotlight in the middle of other characters' stories. But when she had the film to herself, or whether she was just in for a bit, it makes the movies worth checking out.
Here's to you, Cyd. You did it the absolute best.