Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea on March 8, 1921 in Amarillo, Texas. Born to be a dancer, she spent her early childhood taking ballet lessons and joined the Ballet Russe at age 13. In 1939, she married Nico Charisse, her former dance teacher. In 1943, she appeared in her first film, Something to Shout About (1943), billed as Lily Norwood. The same year, she played a Russian dancer in Mission to Moscow (1943), directed by Michael Curtiz. In 1945, she was hired to dance with Fred Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies (1945), and that uncredited appearance got her a seven-year contract with MGM. She appeared in a number of musicals over the next few years, but it was Singin' in the Rain (1952) with Gene Kelly that made her a star. That was quickly followed by her great performance in The Band Wagon (1953). As the 1960s dawned, musicals faded from the screen, as did her career. She made appearances on television and performed in a nightclub revue with her second husband, singer Tony Martin. Cyd Charisse died at age 87 of a heart attack on June 17, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. She danced with the Ballet Russe using the names Maria Istomina and Felia Sidorova.Took her name Cyd from a nickname originated from her brother. Initially, he could not say sister and called her Sid. She took the nickname and convinced her agent to keep the name with the present spelling. He feared that Sid was too masculine.Although one of the greatest female dancers in the history of the movie musical, her singing in films was almost always dubbed, most notably by Carol Richards in Brigadoon (1954) and a young Vikki Carr in The Silencers (1966).Aunt, by marriage, of actress Nana Visitor, Ian Tucker and Zan Charisse. Mother-in-law of Liv Lindeland.Was "the other woman" in Marilyn Monroe's last and unfinished film Something's Got to Give (1962).In 1952, she had a $5-million insurance policy accepted on her legs.In Call Her Mom (1972) (TV), she was originally to have done the part played by Gloria DeHaven, but was replaced by Ann Miller before DeHaven finally took over the role.When casting the film Damn Yankees! (1958), the studio was initially interested in pursuing Cyd as Lola and Cary Grant as Applegate. In the end, Gwen Verdon won the right to recreate her stage role with Ray Walston the devilish Applegate. Cyd was supposedly unavailable but later played the role on the legit stage.Lost out on two of MGM's biggest movie musical roles. She fell and injured her knee during a dance leap on a film which forced her out of the role of Nadina Hale in Easter Parade (1948). Ann Miller replaced her. She also had to relinquish the lead femme role in An American in Paris (1951) due to pregnancy. Leslie Caron took over the part and became a star.Was offered the lead role of Jo Stockton in Funny Face (1957) but declined. The role was eventually played by Audrey Hepburn.One son with her husband, Tony Martin: Tony Martin Jr.Daughter-in-law, Sheila Charisse, killed in the May 25, 1979 crash of American Airlines flight 191 shortly after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.She was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 2006 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, D.C. for her services to dance.Had appeared with Ricardo Montalban in several films: Fiesta (1947), On an Island with You (1948), The Kissing Bandit (1948), Mark of the Renegade (1951), Sombrero (1953) and Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976).Has two sons: Nicholas (born May 7, 1942) and Tony Martin Jr. (born August 28, 1950).Unlike many top female dancers in the era of movie musicals, she was trained as a ballerina in the Russian tradition.The director of the Ballet Russe dance company, Colonel W. de Basil visited the school and saw her dance. He invited her to join his company, and she toured with it. In 1939, while she was in France on tour with the ballet company, she and Nico Charisse eloped. They had one son, Nico, before their marriage ended in divorce in 1947.During a family vacation in Los Angeles when she was 12, her parents enrolled her in ballet classes at a school in Hollywood. One of her teachers was Nico Charisse.Grew up in the Texas dust-bowl town of Amarillo. Her Baptist jeweler father, a closet balletomane, encouraged her to begin her ballet lessons for health reasons.Her father, Ernest Enos Finklea, Jr., was a jeweler. Her mother was Lela Norwood Finklea.Said her husband could tell who she had been dancing with that day on an MGM set. If she came home covered with bruises on her, it was the very physically-demanding Gene Kelly, if not it was the smooth and agile Fred Astaire.Was 70 years old when she made her Broadway debut in "Grand Hotel".Met first husband Nico Charisse, as a very young dancer. She had studied with him for a time in Los Angeles. They married in Paris in 1939 when she was still a teenager. When the Ballet Russe disbanded after World War II broke out, the still newlyweds moved to Hollywood.First started taking lessons at the encouragement of her father, Ernest. She was frail and sickly at the time and had a bout with polio. Dance lessons were encouraged to build up her strength and she took to it quickly.Got her start in Hollywood when Ballet Russe star David Lichine was hired by Columbia for a ballet sequence in the musical film Something to Shout About (1943). Cyd, who was then billed as Lily Norwood, appeared in the scene and attracted attention. Movie offers, including a dancing role opposite Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies (1945), led to a seven-year contract offer by MGM.First gained notice with the famed Ballet Russe, becoming a member of the corps de ballet at age 14 and touring the United States and Europe. The company requested that their members use Russian-sounding names so she was billed at different times Natacha Tulaelis, Celia Siderova and Maria Istromena.Fred Astaire, in his 1959 memoir "Steps in Time", referred to Cyd as "beautiful dynamite".She and husband Tony Martin became a popular song-and-dance couple on television and in nightclubs/cabaret shows after their heyday in film.Her dark looks initially had her cast as ethnic lovelies. She was cast as Ricardo Montalban's fiancée in the film Fiesta (1947), and as a Polynesian in the Esther Williams' musical On an Island with You (1948).Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.She was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in March 2002 in Austin, Texas.One of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies, other actresses that have also done this includes Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds and Leslie Caron.Prior to her feature film debut in Something to Shout About (1943) (filmed in 1942), Cyd appeared in at least six Soundies, short musical films played in the popular television-like jukeboxes of that era. Her actual film debut may have most likely been in Escort Girl (1941), (copyrighted 4 November 1941), in which an uncredited dancer looking amazingly like Cyd, does a number, very much in Cyd's unique style, in a café sequence. Just for the record, since this is an exploitation film, the dancer in question is properly attired at all times, and the sequence contains no nudity nor suggests any improper behavior.Although she is interred in a niche at Hillside Memorial Park, a well-known Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles, Charrise was in fact a practicing Methodist. Her funeral was even presided by Dr. Gary Allen Dicky, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Westlake Village.One of the few, if not only, world renowned prima ballerinas to be featured in a popular hip-hop music video. She had a cameo in "Alright" (1990) by Janet Jackson.She was an honorary member of the National Federation of Republican Women along with Laraine Day, Rhonda Fleming and Coleen Gray.