I'd like to spank the Academy

The Red Shoes (1948)

red-shoes-02Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

This was another movie I first saw on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) about ten years ago. I wonder now if they were spotlighting the movies from 1948, because it seems strange that I would have seen both The Snake Pit and The Red Shoes at the same time if they weren’t. Anyway, when I saw The Red Shoes then, I liked it so much that I when I was home from college on a break, I checked it out from the library and made my younger sisters watch it. I was kind of excited to see it again, but I didn’t like it nearly so much this time around. That made me wonder what has changed about me or my tastes. I’m not sure what it is, but whatever happened in the last ten years, I noticed some definite weaknesses that I hadn’t noticed before.

So what’s the story? Two young artists, composer Julian Craster and dancer Victoria Page, are taken under the wing of ballet master Boris Lermontov. With his guidance and support, both are able to soar to new heights in their respective arts. But when Julian and Victoria fall in love, they will have to live with the consequences of their choices.

The Good: The dancing is beautiful. Moira Shearer, who played Victoria, was a ballerina, not an actress. Her acting is competent, nothing special, but her dancing is glorious. Leonide Massine is Ljubov, the choreographer/featured performer (sorry, I don’t really know ballet terms) of Ballet Lermontov. He’s a fabulous dancer (and a very good actor).

Most of the acting isn’t anything special, but Anton Walbrook does an excellent job as Boris Lermontov, the man who cares about his ballet company more than anything in the world, who only values people for what they can contribute to his art.

I loved the music. The composer, Brian Easdale, had to not only write a score, but also music for ballets. It was all really very lovely.

The Bad: The Red Shoes ballet kind of annoyed me. There were a couple of special effects (like the red shoes suddenly appearing on Victoria’s feet, magicked on by the shoemaker) that wouldn’t have really worked in a real stage ballet. I hate it when a movie is supposed to be showing something real, but takes advantage of movie special effects. It’s cheating. And stupid.

The Ugly: When you take a creative writing class, one of the first things you learn is “Show, don’t tell.” That means that you shouldn’t say, “Victoria and Julian are madly in love;” you should actually show them talking together more than once. You should show meaningful looks and lingering hand holding. This rule should apply to movies, but the writers of The Red Shoes apparently had never heard of it. The love story was extremely weak, which made it hard to believe the rest of the movie. I’m not sure how I missed that the first time around, but I must not have been as discerning when it comes to love stories ten years ago as I am now.

Oscars Won: Best art direction-set decoration, color; best music, scoring of a dramatic or comedy picture.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best writing, motion picture story; best film editing.

Comments on: "The Red Shoes (1948)" (2)

  1. So this one time when I was younger, my older sister saw this movie in college and was so excited about it she checked it out over break and made me watch it. It was okay, but mostly it was boring and depressing and had basically nothing to do with Hans Christian Andersen, which was disappointing. 😉

    I should probably give it another shot, though.


    • I would be interested in seeing whether you like it more or less now. I liked it a lot less this time around. And I’m kind of glad it wasn’t too Hans Christian Anderson-ish. If the movie had ended with Victoria having her feet chopped off, it would have been even more depressing.


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