MGM groomed her and there was no doubt she was one of the finest dancers ever on the silver screen. And she WAS a good enough actress.
But was Cyd Charisse really leading lady star material?
She had been in films for years before her big breakthrough dancing with Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain.
Then she was thrusted into leading lady roles opposite Fred Astaire.
Yes, you’ve seen her dance in dozens of films, many classics, but does that make her a STAR — whose name on the marquee puts butts in theater seats?
Did you know that she went by many names at various stages of her lengthy career — some 56 credits from 1941 to 2008? And that she emerged from a go-to dance partner to a genuine under-the-radar sex symbol (see below, from a 1966 Dean Martin caper outing, The Silencers.)
That she had those fabulously long legs insured for 5 million in 1952 dollars? (That got her a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.)
And that late in her MGM stint, she held her own against the formidable film noir femme fatale, Audrey Totter, as the freelance photographer heroine who rescues shy pharmacist (Richard Basehart) from his domestic hell of adultery, lust and murder in 1949’s Tension?
She was a great dancer but a mediocre singer.Her movie vocalizing was usually dubbed. (Two of the dubbers were singers Carol Richards and Vikki Carr.)
She was indeed a woman of many professional names for various reasons. And the one she enjoyed most was Mrs. Tony Martin. Her marriage to the crooner lasted 60 years until her death in 2008 at the age of 86.
Cyd Charisse is remembered for her terpsichorean feats with the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. “They are both delicious,” she intoned in her autobiography.
But is she remembered as a STAR? Let the debate begin.