Oct 16, 2006

Cyd Charisse is the Epitome of Perfection!

Watching The Harvey Girls last night - a typically spectacular Freed-Unit musical with Judy Garland toting pistols and belting out memorable numbers on trains and in saloons (God, I want everything this woman ever sang, spoke or acted) - I couldn't help but notice her raven-haired costar, one stunning Miss Cyd Charisse. Though her face was almost too young to be easily recognizable to fans of her later work (Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon, both early '50's musicals, are prime and oft-cited examples of Charisse's incomparable talent), her demeanor was undeniably that of a tried-and-true star - and there is simply no way of not noticing an actress like her.

Like her fellow supporting players Virginia O'Brien and the usually fail-safe Marjorie Main, Charisse was a memorable facet of the movie, playing the sweet, genteel dreamer among the gaggle of young women who have settled in the late-1800's west to open the newest branch of a pioneering restaurant chain. If after the first half of the film you still can't seem to find her amongst all the other Harvey Girls (her elegant dark coloring stands out against the numerous brownettes flooding the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe), then her participation in the hauntingly pretty "It's A Great, Big World" sequence will put to rest any qualms regarding who, exactly, Cyd Charisse is.

Though unlikely that she could carry a film on her own, as her striking beauty and incomparable dancing skills are arguably her greatest assets in Hollywood (as well as being her trademark), she nonetheless brands the films she stars in with a distinctly feminine elegance that seems a natural consequence of her presence. Her powerful dance sequences showcase her impressive physical prowess well into the 1960's, and her glitzy gowns and satin accessories do nothing if not accentuate her powerfully delicate body...she was sexy, yet she never portrayed a blatantly sexual character (hellooo, Ava Gardner). Charisse's dance is never compromised for the sake of the glittery musical; rather, it is glorified and made to shine, which is owed to Cyd herself as much as her silks, sequins, and saucy jazz accompanist.

Alright, enough of my elementary musings on dance theory. All I have to say is, Cyd Charisse is a truly talented performer who brought her raw skill and beauty to the silver screen, a pioneering woman in a sect of entertainmen dominated by men. There will only ever be one Cyd Charisse.

A million miles I have danced, or more/In hopes Prince Charming would cross the floor/I can't understand it, I've waltzed and I've whirled/Alas and alack...it's a great, big world... - lyrics from "It's A Great, Big World" off The Harvey Girls Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Update 10/16: The Harvey Girls will be shown today on Turner Classic Movies as part of their Angela Lansbury birthday tribute. It's airing 6:15 PM Eastern Time - don't miss it!