Monday, January 13, 2014

The Skinny -- Tamara Toumanova

I first want to start with how I discovered this lovely ballerina, Tamara Toumanova.  I found this photo:
In the way we Blackbird girls do, I thought, geez, that dress is fab.  And she's pretty lovely herself!  Little did I know that this photo would lead me to discover that Tamara Toumanova was a dancer in Invitation to the Dance, a film written and directed by Gene Kelly.  It has three distinct stories, all told through dance, with no dialogue.  He starred in all three parts.  When we watched the movie, we liked all three stories -- but our most favorite part of the entire movie was the super sexy part with a woman in red.  We love us some Gene Kelly.  And that woman in red?  Ballerina Tamara Toumanova.  She and Gene have some chemistry -- major chemistry.  You can watch her in action with Gene below -- start at around 8:30 in the video.

I could get into a long bio for her, but let me just hit the high points so we can get to the good stuff -- pictures!  Toumanova was born in March 1919.  She was the child of two Russian exiles, who eventually moved to Paris.  She was a child ballet prodigy, making her debut in the children's ballet at the Paris Opera when she was 10 years old. George Balanchine discovered her in 1931 at age 12, and cast her in Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, along with two other young ballerinas -- Irina Baronova and Tatiana Riabouchinska.  The trio was a great success, and very soon became known as the "Baby Ballerinas."
Toumanova was also known as "the Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet."  She was lovely -- with dark hair and eyes, and soft almond skin. She was striking -- and glamorous.  Traits that made her perfect for film as well as the stage.  She had an amazing ballet career, but she also starred in six Hollywood movies.  Her debut was in Days of Glory, a 1944 drama starring Gregory Peck, which was, amazingly, his film debut as well!  In 1953, she made the movie, Tonight We Sing, Deep in My Heart was made in 1954, and Invitation to the Dance was made in 1956. 
She was in Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain as the lead ballerina.  We've seen that movie -- we're big Hitchcock fans -- but unfortunately...she's not the memory that sticks out for us from that film.  We're kind of distracted by Paul Newman in his 1966 prime.  Mmmm...Paul Newman...  Anyhoo -- her last film was Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, in 1970.
She died in May 1996, at age 77, from undisclosed causes.  She was buried beside her mother in Hollywood.
Toumanova and Danny Kaye, LIFE magazine, 1945
Photo by George Platt Lynes, 1941
Here's a video montage of stunning photos of her:

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