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Cyd Charisse's Geni Profile

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Cyd Charisse (Finklea)

Also Known As: "Tula Ellice Finklea", "Lily Norwood", "Felia Siderova", "Maria Istomina"
Birthdate: (87)
Birthplace: Amarillo, Texas, United States
Death: June 17, 2008 (87)
Los Angeles, California, United States (Heart attack)
Place of Burial: Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Ernest Enos Finklea and Lela M. Finklea
Wife of Tony Martin
Ex-wife of Nicholas Charisse and <private> Charisse
Mother of <private> Charisse and <private> Martin Jr
Sister of <private> Finklea

Occupation: Actress and dancer
Managed by: Barbara Rubinstein
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Cyd Charisse


Published: June 18, 2008

Filed at 8:14 a.m. ET

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Cyd Charisse, the long-legged Texas beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, has died. She was 86.

Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack, said her publicist, Gene Schwam. She died Tuesday.

Charisse appeared in dramatic films, but her fame came from the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

Classically trained, she could dance anything, from a pas de deux in 1946's Ziegfeld Follies to the lowdown Mickey Spillane satire of 1956's The Band Wagon (with Astaire).

She also forged a popular song-and-dance partnership on television and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Martin.

Her height was 5 feet, 6 inches, but in high heels and full-length stockings, she seemed serenely tall, and she moved with extraordinary grace. Her flawless beauty and jet-black hair contributed to an aura of perfection that Astaire described in his 1959 memoir, Steps in Time, as beautiful dynamite.

Her name was Tula Ellice Finklea when she was born in Amarillo, Texas, on March 8, 1922. From her earliest years she was called Sid, because her older brother couldn't say sister. She was a sickly girl who started dancing lessons to build up her strength after a bout with polio.

Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin--Christian Funeral at a Jewish Cemetery

Cyd Charisse, the famous dancer and film actress, died last month at age 86. She was best known for her 1950s films opposite Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley. Charisse was a tall, dark beauty with great dance skills and a lot of class.

Charisse and her husband, singer Tony Martin, seemed to have set some sort of record for a Hollywood marriage--they wed in 1948. Martin, now 95, is Jewish and was born Alvin Morris. He was most popular in the '40s and '50s as a romantic crooner. His music went out of style in the '60s, but Martin still found regular work as a nightclub singer. Remarkably, he still is performing. He did a few New York City engagements this year.

Cyd Charisse was born with an odd but Jewish-sounding name, Tula Finklea. But the actress was not Jewish and she was raised and buried as a Methodist.

Tony Martin chose to bury his late wife at the Hillside Jewish Cemetery in Los Angeles, a favorite eternal resting spot for Jewish celebrities. A Jewish fan attended her Methodist religious funeral--held in a chapel at the Hillside cemetery--and his blog entry about the funeral is very interesting. He includes an embedded film clip of an exciting Charisse dance number. It's a touching way to recall a marriage of 60 years in Hollywood. Plus, I didn't know they allowed Christian funerals at some Jewish cemeteries. Maybe you didn't know that either.

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Cyd Charisse's Timeline

March 8, 1921
Amarillo, Texas, United States
June 17, 2008
Age 87
Los Angeles, California, United States
Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, United States