Cyd Charisse has died at the age of 86, her publicist has confirmed.

The Hollywood legend, who danced alongside Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, passed away the Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles following an apparent heart attack, according to Gene Schwam.

Born Tula Ellice Finklea in 1921, she took her dancer husband Nico Charisse's name after their marriage in 1939, and was dubbed 'Cyd' after signing a seven-year contract with MGM studios, who decided to alter the spelling of her nickname Sid.

She appeared with Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain and Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings, with her long legs reportedly insured for a million dollars at the height of her fame.

Charisse made her Broadway debut in 1992 at the age of 70 in Grand Hotel and was awarded the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities, America's highest artistic honour, by president George Bush in 2006.

"What was special about Cyd was that she was always stylish and graceful, and when I saw her two weeks ago, she was still dressed beautifully and her hair was done properly," her publicist said in a statement.

"She was such a loving and gracious woman throughout her life."

Charisse is survived by her husband of 60 years, singer Tony Martin, as well as two sons, a grandson and a granddaughter.

18/06/2008 09:12:51