B I O G .


Date of birth:

17 January 1926
Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, UK

Birth name:

Moira Shearer King


Ludovic Kennedy (February 1950 - 31st January 2006)
(her death) 4 children

Date of death:

31 January 2006
Oxford, England, UK



Isn't life strange? I mean, what do most of us remember Moira Shearer for? What secures her place in the pantheon of the great and the good? Her role as the ballerina in the Powell-Pressburger classic movie, The Red Shoes (1948), made when she was 22. And yet she came to loath the movie (as she did with another of Michael Powell's movies, Peeping Tom, in which she appeared in 1960). She felt she was forced into the The Red Shoes, and because of it met prejudice against her ballet career from audiences, critics and other dancers.

Moira Shearer King was born in Dunfermline, Fife, in 1926. When her family moved to Northern Rhodesia she received her first dancing lessons. However, her main professional training came later in London, first with Flora Fairbairn and then at The Nicholas Legat Studio and Sadlerís Wells schools.

At just 15, she made her stage debut in 1941 with the newly formed International Ballet. In 1942, she joined Sadlerís Wells Ballet and during her first season with that company she danced her first leading role, in Les Sylphides. Over the next ten years, she danced all the major classic roles, touring with the company after the war throughout Britain, France, Belgium and later Germany.

During that period, she was acclaimed as one of the best ballerinas of her generation. The flame-haired beauty was described as the porcelain doll of the ballet. But she had wanted to make her mark entirely by her ability as a dancer, and was unhappy at being singled out often for her exceptionally beautiful face and, of course, her striking red hair. She was therefore somewhat doubtful about accepting an invitation to star in the 1948 film, The Red Shoes, the Hans-Christian Andersen tale of the girl who can't stop dancing after slipping on a pair of red shoes, in which she dazzles audiences around the world. But she was persuaded by the Sadler Wells Ballet director Ninette de Valois that any success she achieved in this would be to the benefit of the company as a whole. In the event, the award-winning film achieved a fame beyond all expectations and her performance as the ballerina, acting as well as dancing, brought her international renown.

But during her years with the company in the 1940s, she struggled against the favourtism shown to Margot Fonteyn by the choreographer Frederick Ashton and de Valois.

Following her formal retirement from ballet at the age of 27, she embarked on a glamourous film and stage career, starring in plays such as I Am A Camera, Major Barbara, The Cherry Orchard and Hay Fever.

Her other films included Tales of Hoffmann, Story of Three Loves, The Man Who Loved Redheads, Peeping Tom (for which she received a salary of £2,000 for six days work) and Black Tights.

She met the author Ludovic Kennedy at a fancy dress ball. The couple married in February 1950 at the Chapel Royal in Hampton Court Palace, London.

Shearer put her career on hold to look after her four children, Alastair, Ailsa, Rachel and Fiona. But even after her retirement she remained active as a writer, radio presenter and lecturer in the U.S. and the UK on the history of ballet. She regularly reviewed books for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph and wrote two books: Balletmaster: A Dancer's View of George Balanchine (1986), and a biography of Ellen Terry (1998).

In 1973 she became a council member of the Arts Council of Great Britain and the General Advisory Council of the BBC.

In 1994, her husband was knighted.

She died at the John Ratcliffe Hospital in Oxford on Tuesday 31st January 2006. She is survived by her husband, and by her four children.


{ D E A T H }

Moira Shearer has died aged 80.

The Scottish ballet dancer, best known today for her role in the Powell-Pressburger classic movie, The Red Shoes (1948), died at the John Ratcliffe Hospital in Oxford on Tuesday, 31st January 2006.

Her broadcaster husband Ludovic Kennedy said:

    "She was full of spirit and also she was very beautiful. She moved wonderfully gracefully as you would expect of a ballet dancer. I found her very good company and I think the children did too"

Kennedy said Shearer gradually become weaker after her birthday on January 17th. He did not reveal the cause of her death.

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{ Q U O T E S }

Alistair Spalding, artistic director of Sadler's Wells

    We are very saddened. Moira had also become such an icon of the ballet world.

    1st February 2006

Monica Mason, the director of the Royal Ballet

    Everyone in the Royal Ballet company is very sad to learn of the death. She played such an important role in the early years of the company and her fame and glorious talent helped us to acquire the international status we still have today.

    1st February 2006

Dame Antoinette Sibley, president of the Royal Academy of Dance

    When we were at school (she was a former Royal Ballet dancer), the artists from the Royal Ballet would use our rehearsal rooms. We would be absolutely overcome when they said Moira Shearer was there. We would all rush to see her walk past.

    Famous has just become a word everyone flings about now but it wasn't at that time. She was a film star. She was that first ballerina who was world-famous from her movies. When you actually saw her she was so gloriously beautiful. It took your breath away. She really was the first ballerina who was world-renowned, rather like Mick Jagger.

    1st February 2006


{ M A I L I N G  A D D R E S S }

    You can send your messages of condolence to the following address or you can e-mail by clicking here and I will put them up on the web and send hard copies to Moira's agent to pass onto the family. Perhaps include what Moira meant to you and where or how you discovered her work, but whatever you write is entirely up to you:

      Moira Shearer's Agent
      20 Powis Mews
      W11 1JN
      United Kingdom


{ E - M A I L S }

Moira Shearer

    It drives my wife crazy when I sit and watch The Red Shores over and over again. When they ask me what my favorite movie is I always answer: "Fantasia" ( a wonderful introduction of classical music) followed closely by "The Red Shoes." The mere mention of Moira in a film makes my pulse speed up and I also multi-enjoy "The Story of Three Loves." She was a beauty to behold and an inspiration to anyone interested in ballet. Obviously, she will be sorely missed. And those dainty red shoes will keep her dancing in our minds as long as we are able to appreciate the artist.

    Martin L. Morris, M.D.
    7th August 2010

Moira Shearer

    was sooo sorry to hear about moira...I had no wasn't in our newspapers here..just seen it on the Oscars ceremony..

    I just loved watching her on film..she was a real treat..would like to have seen some photos of her and her family over the years...but never seen any..

    Anyway goodbye norma, you were much loved by your scottish fans..

    from one redhead to another..(not many of us around..)

    6th March 2006

Moira Shearer

    Saddened to learn of passing of beloved Moira Shearer. I am 66 years old now but she was my idol when I was growing up in London. I wanted so much to be a ballerina like her. I know she was discouraged by others because she was so tall, yet she outshone the detractors. I was so sad when she stopped dancing; I went to see her in Major Barbara on the London stage.

    She remains a bright light in my memory.

    love to her family,

    Maureen D. Page
    6th March 2006

Moira Shearer

    Dear Mr Kennedy and Family, I am 63 and saw Moira in Red Shoes when i was a small girl here in Brisbane Australia. Deeply saddened by her death, now she is dancing with the angels. Sincerely Kath Richards


    Kath Richards
    27th February 2006

Moira Shearer

    Was saddened to hear of her death and although she may have not liked the Red Shoes I was mesmerized by the film when it first appeared in the United States....I have the film and just watched it again recently, as I have many, many times over the years.....I am waiting for my eight year old granddaughter to visit and had planned on her seeing this wonderful film now that she is old enough to appreciate it....

    Moira Shearer is famous here and she has left all with an indelible gift of beauty and talent that will live on.....she has indeed touched my heart.......and has given me many hours of pleasure thoughout the years with this glorious fantasy....

    Mrs. Arline O'Brien
    18th February 2006

Moira Shearer a great human being, woman and artist

    This news of the death of this GREAT ballerina struck me quite suddenly. I will never forget the impact of her first movie The Red Shoes made on me. Her innate grace, talent and beauty were beyond compare. She has left us a great legacy in her films and in the many, many great live performances she gave so graciously and generously to her audiences. This is a tremendous loss to the arts community and my heart is full of her glory and weeps her loss.

    Dr. Paul Ciano
    Ohio, US - 2nd February 2006

Moira Shearer

    The time has come to take off the red shoes. . . . on film and the stage, Moira Shearer conveyed the total passion for the total height. She seemed less like a woman than a goddess from far Olympus. And now she has returned.

    I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to Sir Ludovic and their children. We can all stand a little straighter, smile a little brighter, and reach a little higher because Moira Shearer lived.

    Dr. Patrick Mullins
    Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2nd February 2006

Moira Shearer

    Dear Kennedy Family and Friends and Loved Ones of Moira's,

    Please allow me to add my condolences to what will surely be thousands more to come for years to come.

    Like so many former little girls of my generation (I will shortly be 62), Moira Shearer was the most beautiful, almost magical embodiment of amazing talent, great looks and the kind of feminine charm we all hoped to have once we grew up. My mother took me to see The Red Shoes in Washington, DC, near our home at the time and I can truly say that it touched me as no other film ever has. It's as new and as fresh today as then - time cannot alter great art. I still have the original program that was either given out or sold at the theater at that time.

    From the age of 5, I, like so many of my friends, was happy to take ballet lessons and to listen to wonderful ballet music, attend ballet performances, collect ballet art, etc. As a senior citizen who didn't pursue a career in ballet, I'm still thrilled to hear classical ballets such as Swan Lake on the radio and fantasize what it might be like to dance in whichever production I'm listening to at the time!

    I know I am not alone in wishing that I could thank Moira for the legacy of her art and her dedication to ballet and the performing arts. She will never cease to be an inspiration for anyone who has the opportunity to see her films and those who were lucky enough to see her onstage performances.


    Susanne Boehm
    2nd February 2006


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