Best Foot Forward
THE RED SHOES has probably been responsible for more little girls (and probably some little boys) wanting to be in the dramatic world of the ballet than any other film. Based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, the film tells the story of tyrannical ballet impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), up-and-coming ballerina Victoria Page (Moira Shearer), and the young composer she falls in love with (Marius Goring).
The film is a classic on every level and it all looks splendid under Jack Cardiff’s color cinematography. But if it weren’t for Brian Easdale’s Oscar-winning score, no one would have been dancing.
Though there are a couple of jazz source cues for restaurants and nightclubs (provided by Kenny Baker) and excerpts from famous ballets (including Swan Lake, Les Syllphides and Giselle), it is Easdale’s “Red Shoes Ballet” that is the glorious, focal point of the score.
It is fascinating to hear snippets of the ballet music throughout the film and hear how they all fit together in the seventeen-minute ballet. Shearer recalled in an interview that it was “exotic strange music–a quite advanced modernistic score–but good to dance to–and written with great rhythmic feeling.”
Aware of his own limitations after so much responsibility having been given to him, Easdale asked his producers to approach Sir Thomas Beecham to conduct the orchestra when the score was recorded, believing that the film would be better served by his superior skills. Beecham was impatient of the film making process and simply came to the studio to record the music and left it to the dancers and director to make sure that they danced and filmed to his account of the music.
Musical and moving, THE RED SHOES is not just for balletomanes. Spend a couple of hours in these shoes. You won’t be disappointed.