Born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, TX, on March 8, 1921, Ms. Charisse began performing at an early age, eventually joining the Ballet Russe as a teenager. One of her earliest movie appearances was opposite Don Ameche in the 1943 film "Something to Shout About." At that time she was billed as Lily Norwood. Ms. Charisse would eventually marry ballet instructor Nico Charisse. Her first name was a modified version of "Sid," a nickname coined by her brother when they were children.
As Cyd Charisse, the long-legged dancer would achieve fame dancing opposite Gene Kelly in such Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films as "Ziegfeld Follies," "Broadway Melody Ballet," "Singin' in the Rain," "Brigadoon" and "It's Always Fair Weather." Ms. Charisse also danced opposite another entertainment icon, Fred Astaire, in "The Band Wagon" and "Silk Stockings." It was for her performance in the latter that she garnered a 1958 Golden Globe nomination.
It wasn't until she was 70 that Ms. Charisse graced the Broadway stage. Her one Broadway credit was in the Tony-winning musical Grand Hotel. Ms. Charisse succeeded Liliane Montevecchi in the role of, appropriately enough, a ballerina named Elizaveta Grushinskaya.
Ms. Charisse recently celebrated her 60th wedding anniversary to singer Tony Martin, who survives her. She is also survived by her sons Nicholas Charisse and Tony Martin, Jr.
Gene Schwam, Ms. Charisse's publicist, told Reuters, "What was special about Cyd was that she was always stylish and graceful, and when I saw her two weeks ago, she was still dressed beautifully and her hair was done properly . . . She was such a loving and gracious woman throughout her life."