Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.
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Submitted by Mark Fuller & Kevin Brownlow
'Red Shoes' Moira criticises own film
From The Daily Express, 17th January, 1949
Ballet-star Moira Shearer had this to say yesterday of the ballet-film The Red Shoes, in which she starred:-
Making it was a mistake; and pictures on the hoardings made me look like Jane Russell in black tights.
Twenty-two-year-old Miss Shearer was lecturing 400 students and balletomanes at the Royal Academy of Dancing Production Club in Holland Park, West London.
It was an informal lecture, which she read seated, in a black dress with tight bodice and full skirt. Her red hair was dressed in her customary page-boy style.
She criticised the story of the film - "only the surface of the ballet was scratched" - and the filming.
"There was no continuity or organisation on the set," she said. "Often the script was completely altered on the set. No one seemed to mind.
"The chopped-up sequences allowing perhaps only half a minute's dancing at a time made it very difficult and a very miserable experience.
"After six months of the Red Shoes method of filming, a dancer would not have any technique left. It took me several months after the film to get back to feeling right again."
There were too "exasperating difficulties." One was combating fatigue and limpness after long hours in the heat of the ar-lamps. Another was having to wear make-up for as long as 14 hours a day.
Then Miss Shearer, who lives with her parents in a Kensington flat, asked a question of her audience.
"Perhaps," she said, "you are wondering why I made the film?"
While the audience wondered, Miss Shearer gave her own answer:-
"Perhaps," she said, "I didn't realise there would be so much to fight against."
But Miss Shearer sees hope - IF "a new technique more suitable to the ballet could be adopted, then films of the classical ballets should prove successful." She added:-
"An imaginative director could make a film of 'The Sleeping Beauty' perfectly. I would like to see the old classical ballets filmed in their entirety."
FOOTNOTE last night from Mr. Emeric Pressburger, one of the directors of The Red Shoes film: "I will make no comment. Miss Shearer has the right to criticise like everyone else. I don't know why she is doing it. But she must have a reason."
Comments from Steve:
Moira is right to complain about some things. Working under those arc lights must have been very difficult. With all the high lighting levels necessary for Technicolor they needed to add a spotlight to pick her out on stage. To do this they used a "Brute", a 300 amp arc light that could place 1,200 footcandles on a subject some 100 feet away. But we hear from crew members that she was always very pleasant and friendly on set.
But some of her other complaints do seem a bit strange
- It wasn't realistic and didn't portray what it was really like backstage at a ballet company.
- Well no, it wasn't meant to be a documentary.
- She said she hated the way they had to do the same scene over and over again.
- But other dancers like Helpmann & Massine loved that because it gave them the chance to perfect just one little movement. And it is what dancers do when they're rehearsing in front of the mirror in the studio.
- She said she hated having to dance on an unsprung floor (she injured herself)
- I've spoken to other dancers who were in the corps de ballet and they said that if Moira had done as many tours as they had around village and church halls, she'd be used to dancing on imperfect surfaces.
- Her biggest moan was that filming TRS interrupted her career at the Royal Ballet
- The truth is that all the while Margot Fonteyn was there, Moira was never going to get the top spot. And Margot stayed there for much longer than expected after her husband was shot & paralysed and Margot had to pay for his nursing. In fact Margot's last performance (in The Merry Widow) was almost embarrassing. She was far too old and way past her prime. There was also apparently some jealousy of Moira by other members of The Royal Ballet when she went back because of all the publicity she was getting due to TRS.
And of course, if she hated filming, and Powell, so much, why did she go back for The Tales of Hoffmann and then again for Peeping Tom?
See what one ballet critic said when they were given access while the film was being made.
See also What the Ballet Critics said and Moira's 1994 interview.
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