For a period of time in the 1940s to late 1950s, Hughes Tool Company ventured into the film and media industry, and owned the RKO companies, including: RKO Pictures; RKO Studios; RKO Theatres, a chain of movie theatres; and the RKO Radio Network, a network of radio stations. In 1948, multi-millionaire businessman, film producer, film director, and aviator, Howard Hughes gained control of RKO, a struggling major Hollywood studio, by acquiring 25 percent of the outstanding stock from Floyd Odlum's Atlas Corporation. In 1951, Universal Studios acquired the American distribution rights to the J. Arthur Rank-Archers feature film "The Red Shoes," originally released in a small London art house in September of 1948. Upon seeing it, Hughes was so impressed with Michael Powell's dance film, and especially with the Sadler Well's Ballet principal dancers Moira Shearer, Léonide Massine and Robert Helpmann, that he wanted his own ensemble corps de ballet company, in an effort to expand the creative base of RKO. Hughes had also been impressed with the success of "Les Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit." An outstanding classical dancer as a youth, Roland Petit swiftly decided on a career as a rebel against the traditionalism of the Paris Opera Ballet, and before the age of 25 had created three of his most iconic ballets, "Le Jeune Homme et La Mort," world premiere on 6/26/46, Les Ballets des Champs-Elysee, Theatre des Champs-Elysee, Paris; the Jean Cocteau ballet "Les Demoiselles de La Nuit," world premiere Theatre Marigry, Paris 5/21/48, Les Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit, featuring Margot Fonteyn; and the ballet "Carmen," world premiere in London, Prince's Theatre, on 2/21/49, with the sultry young Jeanmaire as the lethal female destroying a hapless male. These ballets caused a sensation worldwide and Petit and Jeanmaire swiftly became the most exciting names in French dance, closely associating with Jean Cocteau, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand and the new intellectuals of Left Bank Paris. Hughes contracted Roland Petit and his Paris-based "Ballet de Paris de Roland Petit" for film assignments, including all personal appearances in North America. Roland Petit and his core dance company flew from Paris to Los Angeles on Hughes' owned Trans-World-Airlines (TWA). The dance troupe, housed in a Culver City hotel, were assigned a soundstage for intense preparatory work-outs and dance rehearsals. After six months of isolation in Culver City, rehearsing, but with neither stage nor screen assignments forthcoming, the corps of dancers became extremely mutinous. En masse, the Parisian rebels packed their luggage, and went to the TWA Los Angeles terminal with their round trip tickets in hand. They did not know that their boss Howard Hughes owned TWA. The TWA passenger agents alerted Hughes that a horde of 'French gypsies' were at the TWA air terminal, demanding a return flight to Paris. RKO's studio security immediately descended upon the air terminal with a fleet of buses to round up Hughes' dance company, confiscating all of the tickets. Returning to their hotel, the dance troupe were assured that they would be put to work on a Hollywood musical film. Samuel Goldwyn was in pre-production for Hans Christian Anderson, starring Danny Kaye, with a story by Myles Connolly, a screenplay by Moss Hart and Ben Hecht, with words and original music composed by Frank Loesser. Samuel Goldwyn had initially offered the film's ballerina role to Moira Shearer. Since producer Samuel Goldwyn was under an RKO contract, Hughes ordered Goldwyn to use Roland Petit, Zizi Jeanmaire and Petit's Ballet de Paris dance troupe. Roland Petit insisted on his French stage production scenic and costume designer Antoni Clavé be flown to Hollywood as his film design collaborator. RKO costume designer Mary Wills joined the art department; Barbara "Madam" Karinska was brought from New York City to supervise and construct all of the film's ballet and principle's costumes. Art director Richard Day, another RKO film designer, collaborated with Antoni Clavé on all of the feature film's stage and ballet sets. Petit insisted hiring Danish danseur noble Erik Bruhn, one of the premier male dancers of the 20th-century, noted for his outstanding classical technique and immense stage presence. The film's director, Charles Vidor, was "cursed" with Roland Petit's creative involvement, since Petit weighed in on every scene and camera set-up. However, Roland Petit was the impetus for the movie's visual magic. See more
Hans has gone to Copenhagen!