Cyd Charisse was born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Texas, on March 8, 1922. Her nickname, “Sid” -- later spelled “Cyd” -- came from a sibling who tried to say “Sis.” Charisse was an American actress and dancer who started dancing in order to build up her strength after struggling with polio as a child. While on a European dance tour, she met Nico Charisse, with whom she studied in Los Angeles. They later married in Paris in 1939, and remained married until 1947. They had one son, Nicky, born in 1942. Charisse remarried (to singer Tony Martin) and had another son, Tony Martin, Jr. The two were married until Charisse’s death in 2008. Cyd Charisse is best known for her onscreen pairings with Fred Astaire in Ziegfeld Follies and The Band Wagon. She also teamed up with Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and It's Always Fair Weather. On November 9, 2006, at a private White House ceremony, President George W. Bush presented her with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities, the highest U.S. honor in the arts.
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