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Cyd Charisse, a long-legged Texas beauty who danced with the Ballet Russe as a teenager and starred in MGM musicals with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, died Tuesday. She was 86.
Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Monday after suffering an apparent heart attack, said her publicist, Gene Schwam.
Charisse appeared in dramatic films, but her fame rested of the Technicolor musicals of the 1940s and ’50s. 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 TV and in nightclub appearances with her husband, singer Tony Martin.
She stood 5-foot-6, 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.”
Charisse first gained notice as a member of the famed Ballet Russe and got her start in Hollywood when star David Lichine was hired by Columbia Pictures for a ballet sequence in a 1943 Don Ameche-Janet Blair musical, “Something to Shout About.”
Later, she signed a seven-year contract at MGM and got a new name, the exotic “Cyd” instead of her lifelong nickname Sid, to go with her first husband’s last name.
The 1952 classic “Singin’ in the Rain” marked a breakthrough.
When producer Arthur Freed was dissatisfied with another dancer, Charisse inherited the role and frolicked with Kelly in the “Broadway Melody” number that climaxed the movie. She stunned critics and audiences with her 25-foot Chinese silk scarf that floated in the air with the aid of a wind machine.
Charisse also danced with Kelly in “Brigadoon” (1954) and “It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955). But she missed what might have been her greatest opportunity: to appear with Kelly in the 1951 Academy Award winner “An American in Paris.” She was pregnant, and Leslie Caron was cast in the role.
Charisse continued with dramatic films, several made in Europe. She and Martin took their musical act to Las Vegas and elsewhere. In 1992, she made her Broadway debut in the starring role as the unhappy ballerina in the musicalized “Grand Hotel.”
Sidney J. Bartholomew Jr., whose Emmy-winning work as art director on TV’s “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” led to a long relationship with the Farrelly brothers, died June 15 in Los Angeles. He was 54.
Bartholomew first worked with Peter and Bobby Farrelly as a production designer for “Dumb & Dumber” (1994). He went on to provide much of the artistic vision on all the Farrelly films including “Kingpin” (1996), “There’s Something About Mary” (1998) and most recently “The Heartbreak Kid” (2007).
“He was a total weirdo and the most talented artist I’ve ever known, but his huge heart will be the thing I’ll most remember when I think of Sidney J.,” Peter Farrelly said.
Bartholomew shared the Emmy for art direction/set decoration/ scenic design in 1987 for his work on Season 1 of “Playhouse.”
He also brought his signature style to many memorable videos, in particular George Harrison’s “I Got My Mind Set on You.”
Pablo Raul Alarcon, the founder of Spanish-language media conglomerate Spanish Broadcasting System, died June 11 in Miami. He was 82.
Alarcon founded his first radio station in his native Cuba in 1951. By 1960, when he left for the U.S., he already had a network of 14 stations that were taken over by Fidel Castro’s government.
In the U.S., Alarcon eventually purchased his first FM radio station in New York. That marked the beginning of SBS, which today includes 21 radio stations.
Alarcon is the father of SBS chairman and CEO Raul Alarcon Jr.
Ethan Ormsby, a lighting designer for DreamWorks Animation, died June 12 from cancer. He was 40.
Ormsby’s last picture for DreamWorks was last year’s “Bee Movie.” He also worked as a digital artist at Digital Domain, Sony and Disney and contributed to many projects, including “Spider-Man” (2002), “Cast Away” (2000) and “Apollo 13” (1995).
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