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Shearer, Moira Biography




biography of Shearer, Moira

Moira Shearer King
17 January 1926, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, UK
31 January 2006, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK (natural causes)
5' 5"
Moira was born the daughter of 'Harold V. King' (qv) in Dunfermline, Scotland. She was educated at Dunfermline High School, Ndola in Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and Bearsden Academy, Scotland. She received her professional training at the Mayfair School and The Nicholas Legat Studio. She made her debut in the International Ballet with 1941 and then danced at Sadler's Wells in 1942. From 1942 to 1952 she danced all the major classic roles and a full repertoire of revivals and new ballets. Her first ballet role was "Sleeping Beauty" at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1946. She toured the United States with the Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1949 and in 1950/51. She toured as Sally Bowles in "I am a Camera" in 1955 and appeared at the Bristol Old Vic as "Major Barbara" in 1956. Although these performances were the start of her secondary career as an actress, she continued her primary career as a ballerina. She has appeared on TV as a ballerina and as an actress
Steve Crook



-   'Ludovic Kennedy' (qv) (25 February 1950 - 31 January 2006) (her death); 4 children


-   When her first daughter was born, the "Sydney Morning Herald" prefaced the article with the heading "Pink Booties for Red Shoes".

-   She married 'Ludovic Kennedy' (qv) in February 1950 at the Chapel Royal in Hampton Court Palace, London.

-   She was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet at Sadler's Wells in London.

-   Moira and Ludovic have one son and three daughters.

-   Member of the Scottish Arts Council, 1971-1973.

-   Member of the BBC General Advisory Council 1970-1977.

-   Toured the USA, lecturing on the history of ballet and 'Sergei Diaghilev' (qv) between 1977 and 1982.

-   A joint portrait of Moira Shearer and 'Ludovic Kennedy' (qv), by the Israeli artist 'Avigdor Arikha' (qv), is now part of the permanent collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

-   Had 4 children, Ailsa Margaret Kennedy (born August 11, 1952), Rachel Katherine Kennedy (born November 16, 1956), Fiona Jane Kennedy (born December 20, 1961) and Alastair Charles Coverley Kennedy (born February 10, 1963), with her husband, 'Ludovic Kennedy' (qv).

-   Red-headed ballet star who literally danced her way to film fame with only one picture. She has since made only a handful of others.

-   'Arthur Freed' (qv) wanted Moira to play opposite 'Fred Astaire' (qv) in _Royal Wedding (1951)_ (qv) but Astaire was reluctant to dance with a ballerina. 'Gene Kelly (I)' (qv) asked for her for his _Brigadoon (1954)_ (qv) picture. She turned down both film opportunities, much preferring the classical stage in those years. She went on to play "Titania" in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in her Broadway debut and the title role in "Major Barbara".

-   Later was a book reviewer for the "Daily Journal".

-   Was performing at Covent Garden until 1953, when a combination of ill-health, injury and her wish to make a name for herself as an actress made her decide to retire from the ballet stage at age 27.

-   Her father, a civil engineer, moved the family to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where she was pushed into dance lessons by her mother.

-   Performed in 'Frederick Ashton' (qv)'s masterpiece "Symphonic Variations", her red hair providing vibrant contrast to blonde ballerina 'Pamela May (I)' (qv) and brunette 'Margot Fonteyn' (qv). In 1948, Shearer replaced an ailing Fonteyn in "Cinderella". Many prefer her version to that of Fonteyn's.

-   Sister-in-law of 'Royce Ryton' (qv).

-   When Ludovic Kennedy saw Moira Shearer in _The Red Shoes (1948)_, he said that he knew instantly that she was going to be the girl he would marry. He actively sought her out and married her two years later, in February 1950 in the Chapel Royal in London's Hampton Court Palace.

-   Moira Shearer, at the time she was selected to star in _The Red Shoes (1948)_ was second only to the world renowned prima ballerina, Margot Fonteyn, at the famous Sadler's Wells Ballet.


-   (1987) Biography: "Balletmaster: A Dancer's View of George Balanchine".

-   (1998) Biography: "Ellen Terry".

-   (1956) Stage: Appeared in 'George Bernard Shaw' (qv)'s play, "Major Barbara," at the Old Vic Theatre in London, England, in an Bristol Old Vic Company production with 'Derek Godfrey' (qv), Joseph O'Conor, 'Peter O'Toole (I)' (qv), Alan Dobie, 'Edward Hardwicke' (qv) and 'Phyllida Law' (qv) in the cast. Moody was director.

-   (1956) Stage: Appeared in the Old Vic Summer Season at the Old Vic Theatre in London, England, with 'Derek Godfrey' (qv), 'Peter O'Toole (I)' (qv), Alan Dobie, Doreen Aris and 'Albert Finney' (qv) in the cast.

-   (1957-58) Stage: Appeared in the Old Vic Theatre season at the Old Vic Theatre in London, England, with 'John Neville (I)' (qv), 'Coral Browne' (qv), 'Judi Dench' (qv), 'Tom Courtenay' (qv), Barbara Jefford, 'Derek Godfrey' (qv), 'Joyce Redman' (qv), 'Frankie Howerd' (qv), 'Harry Andrews' (qv), 'John Gielgud' (qv), 'Edith Evans (I)' (qv), Paul Daneman, Paul Rogers, 'Robert Helpmann' (qv) and 'Keith Michell (I)' (qv) in the company. 'Michael Benthall' (qv) was director.

-   (3/18/58) Stage: Appeared in a Private Royal Command Performance for Her Majesty Queen 'Queen Elizabeth II' (qv) and 'Prince Philip' (qv), for the Opening of the Old Vic Annexe at the Old Vic Theatre in London, England, with scenes from 'William Shakespeare (I)' (qv)'s plays, "Henry IV Part II," "Hamlet," "Two Gentlemen of Verona," "The Taming of the Shrew," and "A Midsummer's Night Dream with Paul Rogers, 'John Neville (I)' (qv), 'Coral Browne' (qv), 'Judi Dench' (qv), 'Robert Helpmann' (qv), 'Barbara Jefford' (qv), 'Keith Michell (I)' (qv) and 'Frankie Howerd' (qv) in the cast. 'Michael Benthall' (qv) was director.

-   (3/21/42) Stage: Appeared in the ballet, "Les Sylphides" by 'Didier Fokine' (qv), "Hamlet" by 'Robert Helpmann' (qv) and "Casse Noisette Act II: The Kingdom of Sweets" by 'Ivanoff (I)' (qv), in a Sadler's Wells Ballet at the New Theatre in London, England, with 'Margot Fonteyn' (qv), 'Beryl Grey' (qv), Alexis Rassine, 'Celia Franca' (qv), 'David Paltenghi' (qv), Robert Helpmann, 'Peggy Van Praagh' (qv), John Field, Jean Bedells and 'Moyra Fraser' (qv) in the cast. 'Constant Lambert' (qv) was orchestra conductor.

-   (10/29/42) Stage: Performed in 'Viktor Petipa' (qv)'s ballet, "Le Lac Des Cygnes," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the New Theatre in London, England, with 'Beryl Grey' (qv), 'David Paltenghi' (qv), John Field, David Davenport, Jean Bedells, 'Peggy Van Praagh' (qv) and 'Moyra Fraser' (qv) in the cast. 'Constant Lambert' (qv) was orchestra conductor.

-   (7/14/43) Stage: Performed in the ballet, "Les Rendezvous" by 'Frederick Ashton' (qv), "Hamlet" by 'Robert Helpmann' (qv) and "A Wedding Bouquet" by Frederich Ashton in a Sadler's Wells Ballet at the Opera House in Manchester, England, with 'Margot Fonteyn' (qv), 'Beryl Grey' (qv), Alexis Rassine, Robert Helpmann, 'Moyra Fraser' (qv), 'David Paltenghi' (qv) and 'Leslie Edwards (I)' (qv) in the cast. 'Constant Lambert' (qv) was speaker.

-   (3/16/49) Stage: Danced in the ballet, "Le Lac Des Cygnes Act II," "La Boutique Fantasque," and "Hamlet," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England, with John Hart, 'Michael Somes' (qv), Alexander Grant, Alexis Rassine, 'Donald Britton' (qv), 'Léonide Massine' (qv), 'Alexandra Danilova' (qv), 'Robert Helpmann' (qv), 'Nadia Nerina' (qv), 'Gillian Lynne' (qv), 'Gerd Larsen' (qv), Anne Heaton, 'John Cranko' (qv) and Kenneth MacMillan in the cast.

-   (7/18/51) Stage: Danced in the ballet, "The Rake's Progress," "Symphonic Variations," and "Tiresias," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England, with 'Margot Fonteyn' (qv), Alexander Grant, Leslie Edwards, Gerd Larsen, Pauline Clayden, Michael Somes, Nadia Nerina, Brian Shaw, Rosemary Lindsay, John Hart, Margaret Dale, Anne Heaton, Desmond Doyle, Kenneth MacMillan, Gilbert Vernon, Peter Clegg and Alfred Rodrigues in the cast.

-   (7/16/48) Stage: Danced in the ballet, "Hamlet," "Clock Symphony," and "Job," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England, with 'Robert Helpmann' (qv), David Davenport, Leslie Edwards, Beryl Grey, Alexander Grant, Gillian Lynne, Michael Somes, Jean Bedells, John Cranko and Nadia Nerina in the cast.

-   (2/25/48) Stage: Danced in the ballet, "Coppelia," and "Scenes De Ballet," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England, with Pamela May, Alexis Rassine, 'Robert Helpmann' (qv), June Leighton, David Davenport, Leslie Edwards, Beryl Grey, Michael Somes, Alexander Grant, Anne Heaton, Nadia Nerina, John Cranko, Donald Britton and Gerd Larsen in the cast.

-   (1/27/50) Stage: Danced in the ballet, "The Sleeping Beauty," in a Sadler's Wells Ballet production at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London, England, with Beryl Grey, Michael Somes, John Field, Alexander Grant, Leslie Edwards, Nadia Nerina, Kenneth MacMillan, Pamela May, Gillian Lynne and John Cranko in the cast. Robert Irving was choreographer.


-   Pigeon Crowle [pseudonym]. _Moira Shearer: Portrait of a dancer._ London: Faber and Faber, 1949.

-   Rose Tenent. _Moira Shearer: A Ballet Album with a biographical study._ Edinburgh: Albyn Press, 1947.


-   If I am dubious about films and film people; the film industry has only itself to blame.

-   I have been asked to play Shakespeare. Other parts include a Bernard Shaw play and a classic previously made by one of the screen's finest actresses. It would be ludicrous for me to try to play any of these parts. I am not an actress.

-   What people cannot realize is that a ballet dancer just cannot afford to give up ballet for a moment. After a month without practising you are thrown back years.

-   Isn't it strange that something you've never really wanted to do turns out to be the very thing that's given you a name and identity?..._The Red Shoes (1948)_ (qv) ruined my career in the ballet. They (her peers) never trusted me again.


-   _Peeping Tom (1960)_ (qv) -> £ 2,000 for 6 days over 2 weeks


-   "The Daily Telegraph" (UK), 2 February 2006, Iss. 46, 859, pg. 21, "Moira Shearer (obituary)"

-   "The Washington Post" (USA), 2 February 2006, Vol. 129, Iss. 59, pg. B6, by: Adam Bernstein, "Moira Shearer, 80[, Dies]; Ballerina and Star Of 'The Red Shows'"

-   "San Francisco Chronicle" (USA), 2 February 2006, by: Adam Bernstein, "Moira Shearer--Ballerina Famous for Movie 'Red Shoes'"

-   "The Sydney Morning Herald" (Australia), 2 February 2006, by: AP, "Moira Shearer of The Red Shoes Fame Dies"


-   "Der Spiegel" (Germany), 6 February 2006, Iss. 6, pg. 174, "Register"

-   "The New York Times" (USA), 2 February 2006, pg. A 23, by: Anna Kisselgoff, "Dies at 80"


-   "Film Reel" (UK), September 1948

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