[Marxism] Cyd Charisse, star dancer in "Singin' In the Rain" and "Band Wagon"

S. Artesian sartesian at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 19 13:49:56 MDT 2008

Greatest legs in film history.  First film star I ever had a crush on. 
Think I was all of 11 years old.  She was married to singer Tony Martin.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Fred Feldman" <ffeldman at bellatlantic.net>
To: <sartesian at earthlink.net>
Sent: Thursday, June 19, 2008 3:23 PM
Subject: [Marxism] Cyd Charisse,star dancer in "Singin' In the Rain" and 
"Band Wagon"

> Astaire said she was his favorite dancing partner: "When you danced with
> her, you stayed danced with."
> Fred Feldman
> New York
> June 19, 2008
> An Appraisal
> Sylph or Siren, the Legs Have It
> Some stars shine, others flicker, lingering in your consciousness and 
> dreams
> in flashes, favorite scenes and frozen moments. Cyd Charisse, the
> long-legged beauty who in the 1950s gave Fred Astaire some midcareer oomph
> and Gene Kelly his match in pure animal vitality, wasn't a Hollywood
> immortal. She never transcended the movies in which she appeared - her
> breakout musical, "Singin' in the Rain," could certainly have been 
> produced
> without her. But it surely would not have been as magnificent without the
> erotic jolt she gives Kelly.
> Ms. Charisse, who was thought to be 86 when she died on Tuesday, liked to
> say that her favorite musical number was "Dancing in the Dark," from
> Vincente Minnelli's "Band Wagon." For this ethereally lovely duet set in a
> back lot Central Park drenched in moonlight, she and Fred Astaire enter 
> the
> park as colleagues and leave it as lovers. In between they wordlessly,
> almost wistfully, drift through an outdoor dance pavilion until they 
> arrive
> in a private little corner of the park and begin their romance in earnest.
> She's dressed in a white shirtdress with the kind of floaty, wide skirt 
> that
> costume designers liked to put her in - when she pirouettes, the dress 
> fans
> out like a spinning plate, baring her legs. She bends in his arms with
> supple tenderness.
> As pretty as that number is, I prefer the film's "Girl Hunt Ballet," a 
> spoof
> of a Mickey Spillane pulp in which Astaire plays a detective who partners
> with a willowy blonde and a smokin' brunette, both danced by Ms. Charisse.
> The blonde has her allure, but not the brunette's sex appeal - or her 
> dress,
> a red-hot number with tassels hanging from each torpedolike breast. "She
> came at me in sections," the detective says of the brunette, with "more
> curves than a scenic railway." Choreographed by Michael Kidd, the athletic
> number makes the most of her legs, which thrust through the front slit of
> her dress like a boxer's jabs. The number isn't sexy even when she 
> executes
> a split in Astaire's arms, but she's dynamite.
> She reteamed with Astaire for "Silk Stockings," a vulgar musical redo of
> Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 romantic comedy, "Ninotchka," in which she plays the
> humorless Soviet bureaucrat - a role originated by Greta Garbo - who
> succumbs to the West during a trip to Paris. Garbo laughs in the original,
> but Ms. Charisse dances in the remake, filling out the stockings of the
> musical's title. Its dance highlight is a gorgeous pantomime during which
> her character, Ninotchka, elegantly trades her party uniform, including
> black stockings and granny slip, for the gossamer lingerie and froufrou 
> she
> has hidden around her hotel suite. The number, which opens with her 
> turning
> a framed photograph of Lenin face down, encapsulates the character's
> transformation, less from communism to capitalism than from a desirable
> woman to one who desires.
> There were other notable numbers and a handful more fine films, Nicholas
> Ray's 1958 noir "Party Girl" included. She bowed out of the movies
> gracefully, leaving the factory before it shuttered for good. It's
> impossible to imagine the Hollywood musical without her. Like the greatest
> American movie dancers, she showed how appearing on screen isn't just a
> matter of mouthing words, but also moving through and holding space. And 
> she
> was a stunning physical specimen, at once lean and beautifully curved, 
> with
> a wasp waist that seems to have been naturally designed for a man's hand 
> to
> rest gently in its slope. She didn't do all that much with her face, 
> though
> on occasion she let loose a deliciously evocative leer.
> Her legs could send viewers into raptures, and after watching "Singin' in
> the Rain" again, it's easy to see why. She's on screen less than 10 
> minutes
> - simply called the Dancer - but she dominates the windup of this American
> classic. The number, "Broadway Melody Ballet," occurs in a film within a
> film that takes flight with Kelly as an eager hoofer looking for his
> Broadway break, singing "Gotta Dance!" He slides on his knees toward the
> camera, abruptly stopping before his hat, which has somehow become perched
> on a foot attached to a long, long leg. He gapes (as do we) as that leg 
> then
> rises straight in the air with phallic suggestiveness, a prelude to a 
> carnal
> encounter that was as close to on-screen sex as was possible in the 1950s
> and wholly sublime.
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