Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 08:53 UK

Musical star Charisse dies in LA

Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly
Cyd Charisse found fame in the Technicolor musicals

Cyd Charisse, a former co-star of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, has died in Los Angeles aged 86, her publicist says.

The actress-dancer from Texas died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering an apparent heart attack on Monday, Gene Schwam said.

The long-legged star appeared in a number of films, but her fame came from the musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

She sang and danced with legends Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain, and Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings.

At the height of her fame the film company said her long legs were insured for a million dollars. But her talent was enough to make her an essential part of the golden age of Technicolor musicals.

'Beautiful dynamite'

"Her beauty was breathtaking," Debbie Reynolds, who starred with Charisse in the 1952 classic Singin' in the Rain, said in a statement.

"The world will miss her dancing."

Born Tula Ellice Finklea in 1921, Charisse began her career dancing with the Ballet Russe as a teenager. During a European tour she met Nico Charisse, a young French dancer with whom she had trained in Los Angeles. They married in Paris in 1939.

When we were dancing, we didn't know what time it was
Fred Astaire

She appeared in her first Hollywood film in 1943, performing a ballet sequence in the musical Something to Shout About.

Her exploits attracted the attention of the MGM studio, which gave her a seven-year contract and changed the spelling of her childhood nickname, Sid, to "Cyd".

She was married to her second husband, singer Tony Martin, and had just become a mother when she starred with Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain.

She later worked with Kelly again in Brigadoon and partnered Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon and as well as her favourite film, Silk Stockings.

Astaire later described Charisse as "beautiful dynamite".

"She wasn't a tap dancer, she's just beautiful, trained, very strong in whatever we did," he said in an 1983 interview.

"When we were dancing, we didn't know what time it was."

Charisse also appeared in The Unfinished Dance, Words and Music, It's Always Fair Weather and Invitation to the Dance.

Later, she was in Two Weeks in Another Town, made some films in Europe, including Warlords of Atlantis, and appeared in several TV dramas.

She made her Broadway debut in 1992 at the age of 70 in the musical Grand Hotel reprising Greta Garbo's role, and continued to play small TV roles.

Obituary: Cyd Charisse
17 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
In pictures: Cyd Charisse
18 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
Your memories: Cyd Charisse
18 Jun 08 |  Have Your Say

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