For the first 60 minutes, this is a commonplace backstage melodrama, in which temperamental ballerinas replace the more conventional showgirls. Then a superb ballet of the Red Shoes, based on a Hans Andersen fairy tale, is staged with breathtaking beauty out-classing anything that could be done on the stage. It is a colorful sequence, full of artistry, imagination and magnificence. The three principal dancers, Moira Shearer, Leonide Massine and Robert Helpmann, are beyond criticism.
Then the melodrama resumes, story being about the love of a ballerina for a young composer thus incurring the severe displeasure of the ruthless Boris Lermontov, guiding genius of the ballet company.
Although the story may be trite, there are many compensations, notably the flawless performance of Anton Walbrook, whose interpretation of the role of Lermontov is one of the best things he has done on the screen. Shearer, glamorous redhead, shows that she can act as well as dance, while Marius Goring, polished as ever, plays the young composer with enthusiasm.
Other assets that can be chalked up are the wide variety of interesting locations – London, Paris, Monte Carlo, magnificent settings, firstclass Technicolor and some brilliant musical scores played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Thomas Beecham as conductor.
1948: Best Color Art Direction, Score for a Dramatic Picture.
Nominations: Best Picture, Motion Picture Story, Editing