The Red Shoes (1948) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.

  • Under the authoritarian rule of charismatic ballet impressario Boris Lermontov, his proteges realize the full promise of their talents, but at a price: utter devotion to their art and complete loyalty to Lermontov himself. Under his near-obsessive guidance, young ballerina Victoria Page is poised for superstardom, but earns Lermontov's scorn when she falls in love with Julian Craster, composer of "The Red Shoes," the ballet Lermontov is staging to showcase her talents. Vicky leaves the company and marries Craster, but still finds herself torn between Lermontov's demands and those of her heart.

  • Victoria Page dreams of being a ballerina and thanks to her aunt gets an opportunity to dance for the great Boris Lermontov whose eponymous ballet company is world renown. Lermontov is a difficult taskmaster always demanding perfection and complete loyalty to himself and the art of dance. When the prima ballerina decides to marry Lermontov dismisses her for her lack of dedication but it gives Victoria her chance as he puts her in a new ballet, The Red Shoes, with a score from a rising composer, Julian Craster. Over time, Julian and Victoria fall in love and marry and again, Lermontov banishes her. When she returns for a visit, Lermontov forces her to make an impossible decision and tragedy ensues.

  • The successful impresario Boris Lermontov gives an opportunity in the Lermontov Opera to the talented young composer and conductor Julian Craster and to the gorgeous red-haired ballerina Victoria "Vicky" Page, whose greatest passion is to dance. Sooner Vicky becomes the lead dancer of his company and a sensation in Europe. Craster composes the ballet "The Red Shoes" based on the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen and Vicky falls in love with him. The jealous Lermontov sends Craster away and Vicky decides to leave the company and marry Craster. However, when Lermontov meets Vicky one year later, he offers the position of lead ballerina in his ballet back to her; the youth feels divided between her passion for dancing and her love for Craster, leading her to a tragedy decision.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a pair of enchanted crimson ballet slippers, 'The Red Shoes' follows the beautiful Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), a young socialite who loves ballet, the rising composer Julian Craster (Marius Goring) whom she loves, and her dictatorial director, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook).

    After attracting the attention of the famous Director, and earning respect and admiration from her colleagues, Vicky is promised by Lermontov that- ''You shall dance, and the world shall follow'' -but only on the agreement that she will dance, and he will control everything else.

    On this basis, Vicky rises to fame as the prima ballerina in a world- class Ballet Company. However, Lermontov discovers the romance between his talented composer and his beautiful protege, and he cruelly dictates that Vicky must give up Julian or the dancing. He is shocked, and hurt when she marries Julian, and leaves the company, but remains convinced that she will return to him.

    Vicky does miss her dancing, and when she is offered the chance to dance 'The Red Shoes' show once more, she attempts to resist, but eventually gives in to Lermontov's alternate bullying and coaxing. Julian is in London, preparing for the premiere of his new work 'Cupid and Psyche', and discovers that his wife has been coaxed back into dancing with the Lermontov Ballet. He is furious, as it appears that Lermontov has convinced her to leave him, and chases after her, arriving as she prepares to dance 'The Red Shoes' ballet, dishevelled and disbelieving in her dressing room shortly before the performance. She explains that she has missed her dancing, and embraces him, trying to convey wordlessly that she did not want to leave him, but Lermontov enters, and crows his victory over Julian, reinforcing Vicky's apparent betrayal until Julian gives an ultimatum, dancing or their marriage.

    Vicky is so distressed at the rapidly escalating tension and the competition between the crucial two men in her life that she can only cry broken heartedly, seemingly unable to contemplate losing either part of her life. Lermontov takes this as victory and gloats, causing Julian to leave, telling her he is not coming back. Lermontov comforts her a little, promising ''...And from now onwards, you will dance! Like never before!'' He then leaves to introduce the show.

    Vicky, completely distraught, commits suicide by throwing herself off a balcony in front of the train that Julian was about to catch. (Or does she? Another explanation is that the Red Shoes, as in the fairy tale, magically take over, and make her dance off the balcony.) Julian cradles her crushed body, and obeys her final request- ''Take off the Red Shoes ...''

    Lermontov, obviously shaken and knowing his part in the tragedy, announces that Vicky will never dance again, but that they will perform the ballet once more, without her, because: ''We think that she would have wished it...'' A lone spotlight will take the place of Vicki onstage, but no understudy will actually dance the role.

    A ghostly ballet follows, showing the parallels between Vicky and the little girl 'Karen' of the fairy tale, and showing the regret and loss of the entire company, but also pointing out that ''Life rushes by, but the red shoes dance on...''


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