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The Red Shoes (1948)


“The Red Shoes” is a 1948 British drama film written, directed, and produced by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

It depicts a ballerina who is torn between ballet and love, being based on the fairy tale of the same name (1845) by Hans Christian Andersen.

133 minutes.


The Ballet Lermontov is a world renowned ballet company based on Monte Carlo. When they perform in London, the company impresario Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) finds two young talents: a wannabe composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring), and an unknown dancer Victoria ‘Vicky’ Page (Moira Shearer).

Lermontov hires Julian as a répétiteur for the company orchestra and assistant to the company’s conductor, and Vicky as a dancer.

Watching Vicky’s fine performance as the starring role of “Swan Lake”, Lermontov becomes convinced of her potential.

In creating a new ballet “The Ballet of the Red Shoes” based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Lermontov selects Vicky as the starring role, and selects Julian as the composer.

The performance of “The Ballet of the Red Shoes” in Monte Carlo is a great success. Lermontov is going to build Vicky into a great prima ballerina, and he picks her to play the starring roles for their ballet repertoire, such as “La Boutique fantasque”, “Coppélia”, and “Les Sylphides”.

Vicky and Julian fall in love with each other. However, Lermontov tries to make them split because he is dissatisfied with them who waste time loving and don’t focus on their work.

Lermontov fires Julian. Vicky also leaves the Ballet Lermontov, and marries Julian. However, she decides to dance “The Ballet of the Red Shoes” again in the Ballet Lermontov because she becomes dissatisfied with her life without dancing.


The film is a ballet film masterpiece which was a mixture of the art of ballet and pioneering film technology at that time. The images by use of Technicolor are vivid and beautiful.

The highlight is its elaborate and fantastic ballet sequence (17 minutes) of “The Ballet of the Red Shoes”.

Scottish ballet dancer and actress Moira Shearer made her screen debut as the starring role in the film.

Australian ballet dancer, actor, director and choreographer Robert Helpmann and Russian choreographer and ballet dancer Léonide Massine were in charge of the choreography for the film, and they also showed their dancing in the film.

French ballet dancer and actress Ludmilla Tchérina played a supporting role.

The character of Boris Lermontov was modelled in part after Sergei Diaghilev, the impresario who founded the Ballets Russes.

The 4K digitally restored version of the film was produced under the supervision of Martin Scorsese, and it had its world premiere at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Three Reasons: The Red Shoes – The Criterion Collection