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This Day in WWII 10 May 1940 - 1945

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UnitedAircraftAd-May1942.jpg

United Aircraft Corporation Ad - May 1942

 

1940: At 5.35am, the Wehrmacht begins 'Operation Yellow', the invasion of Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, employing Army Group A (von Rundstedt) and B (von Bock), with Army Group C (von Leeb) in reserve. The attacking forces comprise 10 Armored, 5 Motorized, and 75 infantry divisions. The 19th Panzer Korps (Guderian), 20th Panzer Korps (Hoth) and the 41st Panzer Korps (Reinhardt) field between them 2,445 tanks, most of which are of the light Marks I, II, 35(t) and 38(t) type, against 3,373 French and British tanks. In his Order of the Day, Hitler declares, "Soldiers of the Western Front! The battle which is beginning today will decide the fate of the German nation for the next thousand years. Go forward now and do your duty!" Airborne troops seize airfields and strategic bridges near Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland. The Luftwaffe, using hundreds of level and dive bombers, attacks Allied airfields, troop assembly areas and rear communications.

 

1940: Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns and is replaced by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who forms a coalition government from all three main parties.

 

CydCharisse1.jpg *Cyd Charisse

 

1941: The Luftwaffe launches a massive attack against London, the heaviest so far received by the capital. One third of all streets within Greater London are rendered impassible and 155,000 family's are left without gas, water and electricity. Westminster Abbey, House of Commons, Tower of London and the Royal Mint are all hit. A record 1,436 people are killed and 1,792 are seriously injured.

 

1941: Rudolf Hess, Hitler's deputy and former World War 1 fighter pilot, flies from Augsburg to Scotland to persuade anti-Churchill politicians that England should stop the war with Germany, adopt a neutral attitude and allow Germany to eliminate the Bolshevik menace and gain Lebensraum in the East. He is taken to a secret location, interrogated and then held incommunicado at various places until the end of the war, later to be charged and condemned as a major war criminal at Nuremberg.

 

CydCharisse2.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

1942: Kesselring declares that Malta has been neutralized. However, that same day the Axis air forces found themselves outnumbered for the first time in the sky over Malta, losing 12 aircraft in return for 3 RAF Spitfires. This marked a definite turning point in the fortunes of Malta with Axis air activity slackening noticeably as aircraft were drawn off to Russia.

 

1942: Winston Churchill warns that Britain will use poison gas on Germany if the Germans do so on the Soviet Union. The battle for Sevastopol rumbles on, with the Russian Coastal Army fielding 106,000 men, 600 guns, 100 mortars, 38 tanks, and 55 planes. The Germans hurl 204,000 men, 670 guns, 450 mortars, 720 tanks, and 600 aircraft at Sevastopol. The Germans also move in 19 motor torpedo boats, 30 patrol boats, eight ASW boats, and a unit of 150 bombers trained in anti-shipping operations. German artillery ranges from 76mm field guns to mammoth 800-mm railway-mounted super-heavy siege mortars.

 

Coca-ColaAd-May1943.jpg Coca-Cola Ad - May 1943

 

1942: The Germans open up a new death camp just outside Minsk, near the village of Maly Trostenets. Russian POW's and Jews have been forced to build the barracks for 600 slave labourers and their German and Ukrainian guards. Tens of thousands of Austrian, German, and Czech Jews are shipped there and driven towards the village in mobile gas chambers. When the vans reach the camp, all inside them are dead. At the camp, the slave labourers bury the bodies in deep pits. Maly Trostenets remains a tight German secret.

 

1942: General William Sharp, commanding the Central Philippines orders the surrender of the remaining US and Filipino forces to the Japanese, thus ending resistance throughout the whole of the Philippines.

 

CydCharisse3.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

1943: The British First Army reaches Hammamet.

 

1943: U.S. troops invade Attu in the Aleutian Islands.

 

CydCharisse4.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

1944: The Free French claim that the resistance now numbers 100,000 and plead for more military aid.

 

1945: The first U-boat to surrenders, U-249 puts in at Portland.

 

CydCharisse5.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

1945: Russians troops are now in control of Prague after five days of fierce street fighting between German and Czech Partisans comes to an end, during which 5,000 civilians have been killed.

 

1945: The Fourteenth Army moves South in central Burma and links up with troops from Arakan in the west, trapping all Japanese to the west of the river Irrawaddy.

 

CydCharisse6.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

*Charisse was born as Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Texas, the daughter of Lela (née Norwood) and Ernest Enos Finklea, Sr., who was a jeweler. Her nickname "Sid" was taken from a sibling trying to say "Sis". (It was later spelled "Cyd" at MGM to give her an air of mystery.) She was a sickly girl who started dancing lessons at six to build up her strength after a bout with polio. At 12, she studied ballet in Los Angeles with Adolph Bolm and Bronislava Nijinska, and at 14, she auditioned for and subsequently danced in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as "Felia Siderova" and, later, "Maria Istomina".

During a European tour, she met up again with Nico Charisse, a handsome young dancer she had studied with for a time in Los Angeles. They married in Paris in 1939. They had a son, Nicky, born in 1942.

 

The outbreak of World War II led to the break-up of the company, and when Charisse returned to Los Angeles, David Lichine offered her a dancing role in Gregory Ratoff's "Something to Shout About". This brought her to the attention of choreographer Robert Alton who had also discovered Gene Kelly and soon she joined the Freed Unit at MGM, where she became the resident MGM ballet dancer.

 

Charisse was principally celebrated for her on-screen pairings with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. She first appeared with Astaire in a brief routine in "Ziegfeld Follies" (produced in 1944 and released in 1946). Her next appearance with him was as lead female role in "The Band Wagon" (1953), where she danced with Astaire in the acclaimed "Dancing in the Dark" and "Girl Hunt Ballet" routines. Another early role cast her opposite Judy Garland in the 1946 film "The Harvey Girls".

 

CydCharisse7.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

As Debbie Reynolds was not a trained dancer, Gene Kelly chose Charisse to partner him in the celebrated "Broadway Melody" ballet finale from "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), and she co-starred with Kelly in 1954's Scottish-themed musical film "Brigadoon". She again took the lead female role alongside Kelly in his penultimate MGM musical "It's Always Fair Weather" (1956).

 

In 1957, she rejoined Astaire in the film version of "Silk Stockings", a musical remake of 1939's "Ninotchka", with Charisse taking over Greta Garbo's role. In his autobiography, Astaire paid tribute to Charisse, calling her "beautiful dynamite" and writing: "That Cyd! When you've danced with her you stay danced with."

 

In her autobiography, Charisse reflected on her experience with Astaire and Kelly: "As one of the handful of girls who worked with both of those dance geniuses, I think I can give an honest comparison. In my opinion, Kelly is the more inventive choreographer of the two. Astaire, with Hermes Pan's help, creates fabulous numbers for himself and his partner. But Kelly can create an entire number for somebody else ... I think, however, that Astaire's coordination is better than Kelly's ... his sense of rhythm is uncanny. Kelly, on the other hand, is the stronger of the two. When he lifts you, he lifts you! ... To sum it up, I'd say they were the two greatest dancing personalities who were ever on screen. But it's like comparing apples and oranges. They're both delicious."

 

CydCharisse8.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

After the decline of the Hollywood musical in the late 1950s, Charisse retired from dancing but continued to appear in film and TV productions from the 1960s through the 1990s. She had a supporting role in "Something's Got To Give", the last, unfinished film of Marilyn Monroe. She made cameo appearances in Blue Mercedes's "I Want To Be Your Property" (1987) and Janet Jackson's "Alright" (1990) music videos.

 

Her last film appearance was in 1994 in "That's Entertainment! III" as one of the onscreen narrators of a tribute to the great MGM musical films.

Charisse was married to singer Tony Martin from 1948 until her death. The marriage lasted almost 60 years, a notable length among Hollywood marriages, matched in 2008 amongst living American actors by only Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson (also married in 1948). Her first husband, whose surname she kept, was Nico Charisse (March 1906 - April 1970); they were married from 1939 to 1947.

 

She had two sons, Nico "Nicky" Charisse from her first marriage, and Tony Martin, Jr., born 1950, from her second. One of her daughters-in-law is Liv Lindeland, who was Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Year for 1972. A niece of hers by marriage is actress Nana Visitor.

 

Charisse wrote a joint biography with Martin (and Dick Kleiner) entitled "The Two of Us" (1976). She was featured in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records under "Most Valuable Legs", since a $5 million insurance policy was reportedly accepted on her legs in 1952. MGM was reputed to have insured her legs for a million dollars each, but Charisse later revealed that that had been an invention of the MGM publicity machine.

 

CydCharisse9.jpg Cyd Charisse

 

Her daughter-in-law, Sheila Charisse, was a victim of the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979.

 

In 1990, following similar moves by MGM colleagues Debbie Reynolds and Angela Lansbury, Charisse produced the exercise video "Easy Energy Shape Up", targeted for active senior citizens.

 

In her eighties, Charisse made occasional public appearances and appeared frequently in documentaries spotlighting the golden age of Hollywood. She made her Broadway debut in 1992 in the musical version of "Grand Hotel" as the aging ballerina, Elizaveta Grushinskaya.

 

Publicist Gene Schwam said Charisse was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on June 16, 2008 after suffering an apparent heart attack. She died the following day, aged 86. She was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City on June 22, 2008.

 

TRIVIA:

Measurements: 34 1/2B-22-37

Although one of the greatest female dancers in the history of the movie musical, her singing in films was almost always dubbed, most notably by Carol Richards in Brigadoon (1954) and a young Vikki Carr in The Silencers (1966).

Lost out on two of MGM's biggest movie musical roles. She fell and injured her knee during a dance leap on a film which forced her out of the role of Nadina Hale in Easter Parade (1948). Ann Miller replaced her. She also had to relinquish the lead femme role in An American in Paris (1951) due to pregnancy. Leslie Caron took over the part and became a star.

Said her husband could tell who she had been dancing with that day on an MGM set. If she came home covered with bruises on her, it was the very physically-demanding Gene Kelly, if not it was the smooth and agile Fred Astaire.

One of the few actresses to have danced with both Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in the movies, other actresses that have also done this includes Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds, and Leslie Caron.

 

CamelCigaretteAd-May1945.jpg Camel Cigarette Ad - May 1945

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