[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 17:16 GMT
Obituary: Moira Shearer

Moira Shearer
Moira Shearer was hugely popular in her day

The Red Shoes star Moira Shearer, who has died aged 80, enjoyed three successful careers as a ballerina, an actress and, later as a spirited newspaper columnist. Her broadcaster husband Ludovic Kennedy said she had gradually become weaker after her birthday in January.

In 1946, Moira Shearer was just beginning to do the big classics at Covent Garden, in her words, "every classical ballerina's dream".

To concentrate on her stage career, Shearer initially refused the lead role in film director Michael Powell's new movie, The Red Shoes.

After a whole year of resistance, she finally succumbed to Powell's overtures when Ninette de Valois, the founder and head of the Sadlers Wells Ballet, advised her to take the part.

Shearer would not regret her decision. The film, by far the most popular ballet film ever made, made Shearer one of the best known ballerinas in the world.

De Valois' influence

Born in Dunfermline in 1926, Moira Shearer began to dance at the age of six.

Shearer in those red shoes
The Red Shoes - the most popular ballet film ever made
She made her debut with the International Ballet in 1941, and joined the Sadlers Wells Ballet School the following year.

In 1946, she not only danced the leads in Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Coppelia for the first time, but also created one of the roles in Frederick Ashton's masterpiece, Symphonic Variations.

In advising Shearer to take part in her first film, Ninette de Valois was not acting entirely unselfishly. She hoped the movie would be great publicity for her ballet company, which was planning a coast-to-coast tour of the United States.

Acting career

And so it proved. Shearer was already famous in the States, when she toured the country with the Sadlers Wells Ballet, first in 1949, and then again in 1950.

Moira Shearer married journalist and broadcaster Kennedy in 1950, and they had four children. She stayed with the Sadlers Wells Ballet until 1953, when she hung up her ballet shoes, but continued to act.

She was Titania in the Old Vic's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Edinburgh Festival in 1954, and toured as Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera in 1955.

Shearer in tutu
A ballerina from the age of six
Other films included The Man Who Loved Redheads and The Tales of Hoffmann. Then, after a 20-year gap, she was in The Cherry Orchard at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre in 1977.


She hosted the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Edinburgh.

In 1987, she returned to ballet in A Simple Man, playing L S Lowry's mother in a BBC production marking the centenary of the artist's birth.

Shearer lectured on ballet and gave poetry and prose recitals around the world. She worked briefly as a radio announcer in the early 1980s, and wrote for the Daily Telegraph, expressing often fearless views.

Moira Shearer's lasting fame, however, was mostly for her performance in the film, The Red Shoes.

The critics agreed on her charm and beauty in the role. The New York Star described the best sequences of the film as those in which the leading lady appears, "a delicate, red-haired sprite full of modesty and grace, whose dancing is light, flame and spirit".

Red Shoes ballerina Shearer dies
01 Feb 06 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific