Sunday, 31 May 2015



FILM 1324: THE RED SHOES

TRIVIA: When people complained to Hein Heckroth about the grim ending, he pointed out to them that in Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale, the ballerina had her feet hacked off by a woodsman to stop her dancing.

Technicolor founders Herbert T. Kalmus and Natalie Kalmus considered this film the best example of Three-Strip Technicolor. During the filming, however, Natalie Kalmus often complained that Jack Cardiff wasn't following the rules laid down for Technicolor films and demanded that they re-shoot various scenes. But Michael Powell always backed up Cardiff and they got the film they wanted.

When Ludovic Kennedy saw Moira Shearer in this film, he said that he knew instantly that she was going to be the girl he would marry. He actively sought her out and married her two years later, in February 1950 in the Chapel Royal in London's Hampton Court Palace.

Much to his surprise, Michael Powell had great difficulty persuading Moira Shearer to be in the film. She held out for a year before giving in to him. Shearer herself, however, did not particularly care for Powell. In later years, she described the making of the film as being a terrible ordeal. She said that Powell was distant and aloof and never really gave her much direction; and having to dance for hours on end on concrete floors also physically took its toll on all the dancers, making their legs swell up.

The film went massively over budget and the Rank Company (which financed it and was to release it) had little faith in its commercial potential. It tried to bury the film by not giving it a premiere (backer J. Arthur Rank walked out of its first performance) and by just letting it quietly show at late screenings at a cinema in London. Rank wasn't even prepared to strike a print for the American market. Slowly, however, audiences started to pick up on the film and Rank realized that it might have a potential breakout hit after all. Indeed, when an initial print was made for the US, it played at an off-Broadway theater for an unprecedented 110 weeks. That was enough to convince Universal to take up the distribution rights for the US, which it did in 1951.

The title ballet sequence took six weeks to shoot and employed over 120 paintings by Hein Heckroth. The dancing newspaper was achieved through careful cutting and use of wires.

Jack Cardiff deliberately manipulated camera speed during the Red Shoes ballet to create the effect of dancers almost hovering in mid-air at the peak of their jumps.

One of Martin Scorseses favorite films


The exterior of The Mercury Theatre, Notting Hill Gate was shown in the rain because Michael Powell had often gone there to see plays or the ballet and he reminisced "it always seemed to be raining when one queued up for Madame Rambert's productions".

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