Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
"When you've danced with Cyd Charisse, you stay danced with." So said Fred Astaire, in tribute to the ability and allure of his last big-screen dancing partner. Cyd Charisse was the last great musical star to come out of MGM, and she barely made it to stardom before the musical genre began its decline. One of the greatest dancers ever to come out of Hollywood, Charisse worked in movies for almost a decade before being allowed to take center stage in a major musical feature; but when she did, she fairly exploded onscreen in The Band Wagon, Vincente Minnelli's greatest musical.
Charisse was born in Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, TX, and took to dancing at an early age, encouraged by her father, who loved the ballet. By age 14, she was dancing with the Ballet Russe under the more glamorous (and European-sounding) name Felia Sidorova -- the Sidorova came from her childhood nickname "Sid," which she carried into adulthood. She later studied dance in Los Angeles with Nico Charisse, who became her first husband. Charisse appeared both solo and with her first husband (working as "Nico and Charisse") in several early '40s "soundies" and played small roles in Mission to Moscow and Something to Shout About (both 1943), working under the name Lily Norwood. In 1945 Charisse was signed to MGM; Lily Norwood disappeared and Sid became Cyd, while the Charisse -- the one major legacy of the failed marriage -- remained.