‘The Red Shoes’ 1948

In this classic drama, Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) is an aspiring ballerina torn between her dedication to dance and her desire to love. While her imperious instructor, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), urges to her to forget anything but ballet, Vicky begins to fall for the charming young composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring). Eventually Vicky, under great emotional stress, must choose to pursue either her art or her romance, a decision that carries serious consequences.

The Red Shoes is a 1948 British drama film written, directed, and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and starring, in the same order as the movie’s opening credits, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring and Moira Shearer. It follows the beautiful Victoria Page, played by Moira Shearer, the ballerina who joins the world renowned Ballet Lermontov, owned and operated by Boris Lermontov, played by Anton Walbrook, who ultimately tests her dedication to the ballet, when she must choose between her career and a romance with composer Julian Craster, played by Marius Goring. It marked the feature film debut of Shearer, an established ballerina, and also features Robert Helpmann, Léonide Massine, and Ludmilla Tchérina, other renowned dancers from the ballet world. The plot is based on the 1845 eponymous fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen, and features a ballet within it by the same title, also adapted from the Andersen work.

The Red Shoes was filmmaking team Powell and Pressburger’s tenth collaboration and follow-up to 1947’s Black Narcissus. It had originally been conceived by Powell and producer Alexander Korda in the 1930s, from whom the duo purchased the rights in 1946. The majority of the cast were professional dancers. Filming of The Red Shoes took place in mid-1946, primarily in France and England.

Critical Reception

Upon release, The Red Shoes received critical acclaim, especially in the United States, where it received a total of five Academy Award nominations, including a win for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It also won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and was named one of the Top 10 Films of the Year by the National Board of Review. Despite this, some dance critics gave the film unfavorable reviews as they felt its fantastical, impressionistic centerpiece sequence depicted ballet in an unrealistic manner. The film proved a major financial success, and was the first British film in history to gross over $5 million.

Retrospectively, it is regarded as one of the best films of Powell and Pressburger’s partnership, and in 1999, it was voted the 9th greatest British film of all time by the British Film Institute. The film underwent an extensive digital restoration beginning in 2006 at the UCLA Film and Television Archive to correct significant damage to the original negatives. The restored version of the film screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and was subsequently issued on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection. In 2017, a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine saw it ranked the 5th best British film ever.