Rôle: Julian Craster
Release Date: 22 July 1948
Synopsis: Under the authoritarian rule of charismatic ballet impresario Boris Lermontov, his proteges realise the full promise of their talents, but at a price: utter devotion to their art and complete loyalty to Lermontov himself. Under his near-obsessive guidance, young ballerina Victoria Page is poised for superstardom, but earns Lermontov's scorn when she falls in love with Julian Craster, composer of "The Red Shoes," the ballet Lermontov is staging to showcase her talents. Vicky leaves the company and marries Craster, but still finds herself torn between Lermontov's demands and those of her heart.
Comment: This was one of Marius's rare romantic rôles but one that made him famous. His blue eyes and red gold hair are just made for technicolour and we get to once again see him play the piano. My favourite scene is the carriage ride along the coastline. So romantic! I also love the scene where Boris Lermontov finds out about Vicky and Julian's romance. "Charming!' he says through gritted teeth. And the scene where Julian is sacked by Boris and how he rushes to get to the door ahead of him and then stops and turns around to give him a filthy look, as if to say "Fuck you, Boris!".
Trivia: It is a beloved film to renowned director, Martin Scorsese, who has adored it since childhood. He calls it 'the movie that plays in my heart'. (See the article about the film and interview with Scorsese below). Scorsese befriended Michael Powell in the last years of Powell's life and is known to possess a large collection of Red Shoes memorabilia.
Both Marius and Moira Shearer were paid £5000 each (plus overtime) for the film which was half of what Leonid Massine asked for and received (£10000) but even less than Anton Walbrook (£12000).
Books: A book about the film - 'The Red Shoes' by Pamela Hutchinson (BFI Film Classics series) was published on 5 October 2023 by Bloomsbury Publishing. It is an excellent, engaging history and analysis of the film and its lasting impact and influence. Highly recommended!
Reviews: An excellent essay "The Red Shoes: Dancing for Your Life" on the film by David Ehrenstein was written to accompany the film's Blu Ray release by the Criterion Collection. It says, in part: "Earlier, Lermontov explained to the composer: “The ballet of The Red Shoes is from a fairy tale by Hans Andersen. It is the story of a girl who’s devoured by an ambition to attend a dance in a pair of red shoes. She gets the shoes, goes to the dance. At first, all goes well and she’s very happy. At the end of the evening, she gets tired and wants to go home. But the red shoes are not tired. In fact, the red shoes are never tired. They dance her out into the streets. They dance her over the mountains and valleys, through fields and forests, through night and day. Time rushes by. Love rushes by. Life rushes by. But the red shoes dance on.”
“What happens in the end?” Craster inquires.
“Oh, in the end, she dies,” says Lermontov, with brisk matter-of-factness.
There are two elements that make this pivotal moment indelible. One is, of course, Walbrook—the dramatic stress he places when intoning “the red shoes” and “never tired,” the masterly cool with which he dominates the scene. The other is the sudden appearance on the soundtrack of the first notes of music for the ballet that Craster has yet to write. It’s already a part of him, Powell and Pressburger seem to be saying. It’s an assignment that’s ordained by fate. And so is its outcome. Julian and Vicky will not only work together as artists but fall in love. And this love will prove their undoing."
Availability: DVD & Blu Ray (Criterion Collection) Release Date: 20 July 2010.