I'm not the most knowledgeable man when it comes to dance, but I'm at least a little familiar with Cyd Charisse. As everyone should be. Next to Ginger Rogers, she was possibly the most iconic female dancer in film history. Even those of us cinephiles who skip out on most dance musicals have at least seen her famous number from Singin' in the Rain (above). A few years ago, when Moviefone counted down the Top 10 Best Dance Scenes, it was #2 (just behind Dirty Dancing).
Charisse has died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 86, and she's hopefully joining old partners Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly for some of the best dance scenes ever seen up in heaven. With the former, she was paired up in The Band Wagon, Ziegfeld Follies and Silk Stockings (for which she received a Golden Globe nomination), and with the latter, she danced in Brigadoon, It's Always Fair Weather, Invitation to Dance and, of course, in Singin' in the Rain.
Charisse was born as Tula Ellice Finklea, in Amarillo, Texas, in 1921. She studied ballet in Los Angeles before joining the Ballets Russes under the name Siderova. After the company broke up at the start of WWII, she returned to L.A., where she was soon taken in and made the resident ballet dancer at MGM. Two decade later, dance musicals were dead in Hollywood and Charisse was all but retired. But she continued to act in the occasional film, including Vincente Minnelli's Two Weeks in Another Town, the Dean Martin comedy The Silencers and the '70s sci-fi/fantasy Warlords of Atlantis. She was also to appear alongside Martin and Marilyn Monroe in the unfinished film Something's Got to Give, but Monroe died suddenly during production.