THE RED SHOES(The Archers/Rank, 1948)—Ballet/romantic melodrama. Director: Michael Powell; Producers: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger; Script: Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell; Cinematography: Jack Cardiff; Music: Brian Easdale; Cast: Anton Walbrook (Boris Lermontov), Marius Goring (Julian Craster), Moira Shearer (Victoria Page), Robert Helpmann (Ivan Boleslawsky), Leonide Massine (Grischa Ljubov), and Albert Bassermann (Sergei Ratov).
Sir John Davis, the managing director of the Rank organization, stormed out of the preview screening of The Red Shoes after trying to stop production of the film midway through the shooting. Only Alexander Korda's* money and distribution contacts facilitated the release of the film. Also, Moira Shearer was less than delighted with the project as she was appalled by the original story (“a typical woman's magazine view of the theatre”)1 and the cruel behavior of Michael Powell* on the set. Nevertheless, The Red Shoes eventually became a major commercial success, particularly in the United States and, for many years, it was the top-grossing British film. It began its successful run in Manhattan, where it screened for nearly two years before a general release throughout the rest of the United States.
With The Red Shoes, Powell and Emeric Pressburger* extend their fascination with romantic expressionism, as opposed to the prevailing (1940s) emphasis on cinematic realism. They blend mythic elements from Hans Christian Anderson's story with a story that is essentially concerned with the clash between art and domesticity—a theme that interested Pressburger who wrote the first draft of the script in 1939 for a film with Merle Oberon. This aspect is developed in the film through the behavior of Anton Walbrook as the obsessive ballet company director Boris Lermontov. Lermontov believes, like Pressburger, that the restrictions imposed by a middle-class lifestyle destroys creativity: When his choreographer Grischa Ljubov tells Lermontov that “you can't alter human nature,” the obses-