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Picturegoer: May 7 1949
Catch Me If You Can!
Moira Shearer is Britain's biggest star discovery in years - and she
doesn't seem to want that kind of fame. She's a film find on the run.
This is an incredible story. It's the true explanation behind one of the greatest film puzzles in years - the mystery of Moira Shearer, the beautiful red-headed ballet star who danced her way to film fame with one picture and since then has refused to make any more.
Reports are coming through already that Hollywood is hoping to sign her up, when she visits there. America, like Britain, has hailed her first and only screen appearance in The Red Shoes.
Maybe Hollywood will succeed - maybe not. Miss Shearer is a young woman with a mind very much of her own.
Moira has been standing firm against film offers ever since she completed The Red Shoes, and in doing so she has run into a barrage of criticism.
Her triumph in her first film has proved to be bitter-sweet.
"It has brought me a lot of unhappiness," she admits. "I am almost afraid to pick up the papers these days in case someone is taking me to task for my attitude, or I find myself being misquoted as attacking the film industry."
What is the truth? Why hasn't she made any more films?
Let Moira speak for herself.
"If I am dubious about films and film people, the film industry has only itself to blame," she declared.
"It is quite true that I have rejected every film offer made to me since The Red Shoes, and on the surface this does appear to be ungracious.
"I'm not really an ungracious person, though. I am very conscious of the honour paid to me by picturegoers who would like to see me on the screen again.
"It is not true to say that I have no intention of making another picture. I have an open mind.
"What the motion picture industry cannot get into its head however, is that I am a ballet dancer and not a film star.
"I was starred in The Red Shoes simply and solely because I was a dancer. [One who looked good in close up and that could act] My contribution was mainly dancing.
"Yet of all the film offers I have received since making that picture only one has been for a dancing rôle - and that one came from a group of Americans who wished to form a new company.
"The film they wanted to produce was a remake of an old picture in which Anna Pavlova starred back in 1916. [The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) presumably] I couldn't agree to appear in a rôle created by Pavlova.
"I have been asked to play Shakespeare. Other parts include a Bernard Shaw play and a classic previously made by one of the screen's finest actresses.
"It would be ludicrous for me to try to play any of these parts. I am not an actress. In fact I am only now undergoing dramatic tuition, and it will be a long time before I feel that I am competent to appear as an actress.
People Cannot Realise
"Quite apart from the question of competence, I have no desire to turn to acting yet. I have still a lot to learn as a dancer.
"What people cannot realize is that a ballet dancer just cannot afford to give up ballet for a moment. After a month without practising you are thrown back years.
"After making The Red Shoes I realized I had gone back a long way. It took me several months to regain my form. [She was bed-ridden for quite a while when a cut on her leg turned septic]
"To succeed as a dancer you have to give up everything for your art. [Wasn't that the message the film was trying to put over?] It is all-embracing and all-absorbing and very exacting.
"My attitude towards the film world is, therefore, a very simple one: 'Do you want me as a personality, or do you want me as a dancer? If as a personality, then I am not interested.
Here she is in "The Red Shoes" - Moira's one picture so far, with Robert
Helpmann and Leonide Massine, who are ballet dancers and actors, too.
"I'm not an actress," says Moira. "That will take a long time. But
Please don't think me 'high hat', I just feel I've still a lot to learn"
"I find it difficult to understand the film attitude. Is there no public demand for more ballet pictures? [Not a lot] When one hears of the success of films like The Red Shoes and the twelve-year-old La Mort du Cygne, and when one looks at the queues outside Covent Garden during the ballet season, it seems hard not to believe that there is not enough interest to justify further productions.
"That is not my worry, however. My own interest in the screen is purely the very personal one that if I am going to make any more films they should be subjects to which my own particular talents are suited."
Moira that she was not happy with the methods employed in filming ballet for the screen. She has been extensively quoted (and misquoted) regarding her attitude towards the technique.
It's true that I have said that dancers cannot produce the artistic work of the theatre when working in such a mechanistic medium as the cinema," she admitted. "Most stage actors suffer from this same difficulty. But film technique is even more unsuited to dancers because their work demands space and continuity and flow of movement.
"There were times after shooting scenes for The Red Shoes when I left on the verge of tears. I found myself dreading the word 'Cut!' The effect was both physical and mental. It was discouraging and demoralizing.
"This is why I am very much interested in Alfred Hitchcock's much discussed 'ten-minute take' technique. Yet, so far as I know, no one has yet made any experiments in the development of this technique as applied to ballet.
"I am convinced that continuous filming is the only answer to the problems of putting ballet on the screen.
"There is nothing I should enjoy more than bringing to the screen the popular classical ballets which, when all is said and done, are the mainstay of ballet. "Swan Lake", and the others have the same appeal throughout the world. Bring them to the screen, and no one could be happier to take part in them than I should be."
And what about Hollywood?
Moira has no preconceived views on this subject. "It makes no difference where one works - if you are doing what you want to." she remarked.
"But I am not keen on the idea of working in Hollywood. I don't feel that I could be happy in the atmosphere, and in any case a lot of the offers I have already turned down have come from American companies.
"I do plead with those many picturegoers who have criticized me for refusing to make any more pictures to believe that I am not 'high hat' and that I am not being temperamental.
"I know only too well that, with my present lack of experience, I should disappoint myself if I made any attempt to give a dramatic portrayal for which I am by no means fitted so far."
John K. Newnham