Ballet Shoes (film)

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Ballet Shoes
Ballet Shoes.jpg
Promotional poster
Written by Heidi Thomas
Noel Streatfeild (Novel)
Directed by Sandra Goldbacher
Starring Emma Watson
Richard Griffiths
Lucy Boynton
Yasmin Paige
Emilia Fox
Victoria Wood
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Piers Wenger
Michele Buck
Damien Timmer
Patrick Spence
Heidi Thomas
Running time 85 minutes
Original channel BBC One
Original release 26 December 2007

Ballet Shoes is a 2007 British television film, adapted by Heidi Thomas from Noel Streatfeild's 1936 novel Ballet Shoes.[1] It was produced by Granada Productions (formerly Granada Television) and premiered on BBC One on 26 December 2007. It is directed by Sandra Goldbacher.

A previous adaptation of Ballet Shoes was produced in serial format by the BBC in 1975 and directed by Timothy Combe.


A young orphan, Sylvia Brown, and her nurse Nana come to live at her great-uncle Matthew (Gum) 's house in London. He is a paleontologist and is reluctant to take her in, but relents when he learns that he is her only living relative. Gum is away a lot on travels collecting fossils, but he sends Sylvia letters and presents and she learns to love him.

It is 1919. Sylvia is now grown up. Gum brings her back an orphaned baby girl, who has been rescued from a shipwreck. He names her Pauline Fossil. Sylvia and Nana reluctantly take her in. Two years later, in 1921, Gum brings back another orphan, a Russian baby girl called Petrova. In 1923, Gum sends a third baby, Posy, with ballet shoes that her mother owned and necklaces for the three girls. He also left some money in the bank for Sylvia, enough to last five years. That is the last the family hears of him.

Pauline and Petrova go to school at Cromwell House, but Sylvia (called "Garnie" by the girls, short for Guardian) can't afford to send Posy. As Gum's money runs out, Garnie has to take out Pauline and Petrova out of school. When the money runs out completely, she takes in four boarders to live in the house: Theo Dane, a dancer, John Simpson, who works with cars, and Dr Smith and Dr Jakes, who are retired academics.

Pauline, Petrova and Posy are inspired by the professors to "put their names in the history books" giving service to their country. They vow to do that, and repeat the vow every Christmas and birthday.

Theo convinces Garnie to let the girls train at The Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, a stage school. Garnie is reluctant at first but then is happy that the girls are getting trained to earn a living. Meanwhile, Smith and Jakes start to teach Pauline, Petrova, and Posy.The girls become very busy. Soon Pauline is old enough to act on stage and audition for the role of Alice in "Alice in Wonderland". She loans Gum's necklaces to Mr Simpson for money for a frock to wear, and will pay him back with her wages. Pauline gets the part, and does very well as Alice. She gives thirty shillings to Garnie for housekeeping money. But Pauline starts to get proud and is rude to Winifred, her understudy. Pauline ends up losing her temper at Mr French, the director, and since she's been disobedient she loses her part to Winifred.

Posy, noticed by Madame Fidolia, the owner of the school, is very talented at ballet. Madame Fidolia now teaches her classical ballet only. However Petrova hates dancing and would much rather work with cars and fly planes. She and Mr Simpson become very good friends. Garnie starts to fall in love with Mr Simpson. She has bad lungs and her health starts worsening. Petrova is worried for her.

Petrova and Pauline audition for roles as fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Petrova does very badly, but she is engaged since nobody else auditions for her role. Pauline is engaged too. Petrova does not do well at the rehearsals, and is almost sacked. She doesn't like acting but does it for the money. When A Midsummer Night's Dream comes off, Pauline wants to audition with Petrova for another play, but Petrova warns her to stop making her go on stage.

The girls and Garnie go camping to help with Garnie's health. Mr Simpson comes to tell them that Pauline will be auditioning for a movie, Charles In Exile. She gets the part, but finds film acting difficult and doesn't like it. After the filming, Pauline and Petrova play in a pantomime of Cinderella. Even with the money from the film and play, Garnie can't afford to keep their house, and sells it.

Posy is brought to see Valentin Manoff's ballet by Madame Fidolia. Posy wants to go to his ballet school in Czechoslovakia. Madame has a stroke and is paralysed, and Posy is devastated. Charles in Exile is a hit and Pauline has been discovered. She is offered a contract for five years in Hollywood, but she isn't sure that she should take it.

Posy runs away to Manoff's ballet. She dances for him and he wants to teach her. Pauline signs the contract so that Posy can go to Czechoslovakia with Nana, and Garnie will go to Hollywood with her. Unexpectedly, Gum comes back, and agrees to teach Petrova to fly planes. The movie ends with Pauline and Posy vowing to get Petrova into the history books, while Petrova flys over Garnie and Mr Simpson's wedding.



A July 2007 report from Digital Spy written by Kimberley Dadds announced the involvement of Woods, Griffiths and Warren;[3] the BBC announced that open casting for the roles of the sisters would be a week later.[4] Emilia Fox plays the part of Sylvia Brown in this adaptation; her mother, Joanna David, played the part of Theo Dane in the 1975 BBC adaptation of the same story.[5] Emma Watson, Richard Griffiths and Gemma Jones have all starred in films in the Harry Potter franchise, playing Hermione Granger, Uncle Vernon Dursley and Madam Poppy Pomfrey respectively. In addition, Gemma Jones starred in the 1995 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility as Mrs. Dashwood, while Lucy Boynton (Posy) played Margaret Dashwood in the 2008 BBC adaptation of the same novel.[6] Louise Keller of Urban Cinefile notes that this is Emma Watson's first role other than that of Hermione,[7] though her voice would later be heard in The Tale of Despereaux. Identical twin girls Lucy and Nina Watson, who take turns playing a younger Pauline in this film, are Emma Watson's younger half-sisters and only appear in the uncut DVD version of the film.[8]


In a press release dated July 2007 it was announced that the film would begin shooting that August.[4] Screenwriter and producer Heidi Thomas called the schedule "murderous".[5]

Both Victoria Wood and Thomas described Streatfeild's novel as a book they have long treasured.[5] Producer Piers Wenger, who said the film has a "strong rites-of-passage story", related the film to the current "cult of the TV talent shows, and said that it "is also a great antidote to the notion of fame for fame's sake".[5]

Broadcast and commercial releases[edit]

The film was released on DVD in Europe in Region 2 on 7 January 2008.[9] The film had a limited release in U.S. theaters on 26 August 2008;[10] this can be seen as part of Screenvision's initiative to expand its venue.[11] According to a press release on Screenvision's website, KOCH Vision bought the North American Home Entertainment rights from Granada International and partnered with Screenvision; KOCH Vision President Michael Rosenberg said that the theatrical run would help promote the DVD.[12] Participating theaters promoted the film with a trailer and a poster earlier that August, and Random House promoted the "Shoe Books", in association with the film.[13] Ballet Shoes was released on DVD in North America, Region 1, on 2 September 2008.[14] The film premiered on Christmas Eve on TV ONE in New Zealand. It will be broadcast in Canada on CBC.[15] Is was aired in Australia on 7 June 2009.


As of 2013, the film holds a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[16] but the audience score places it at 66% with an Average Rating of 3.6/5.[17]

Wayne Myers of The Oneida Daily Dispatch called it an "embraceable film of the sort that emerges more frequently from elsewhere nowadays than Hollywood", and praised the performances of Paige, Watson, Boynton and Nicol.[18] Brian Orndorf writes that Emilia Fox as Sylvia "forms the spine of the story" and that Goldbacher "is cautious to silently weave the performance throughout the film to undercut any saccharine temptations."[19] Betty Joe Tucker of ReelTalk Movie Reviews praised the way film evokes the 1930s.[20] Gina Catanzarite, in a review for Parents' Choice, suggested that there may be too much plot material for the film's relatively short running time.[21]

Differences from the book[edit]

  • In the film, Winifred Bagnall appears to be quite arrogant because she is the "best all-round student" in the academy, and her father's illness as well as her meager financial state is suggested only a few times. In the book, Winifred is far less presumptuous and it is discovered early on that Winifred is ambitious because her father's illness is the cause of her family's financial struggles, leaving her as the eldest of six children to earn a living to help support her family.
  • The suggestion in the film is that Winifred replaces Pauline as Alice. In the book it occurs for one night only, Pauline is not being sacked but is simply shown she is not indispensable after her attitude gets out of hand.
  • The film has Mr. Simpson a widower who falls in love with Garnie. In the book his wife is alive and there is no romance with Garnie.
  • Posy is made more unsympathetic in the film, she knows Madame is paralyzed for life but she still only cares for herself. In the book she behaves selfishly because those around her have played down Madame's illness, leaving Posy to feel abandoned for a trivial illness.
  • In the book, Pauline and Petrova star in the academy's musical – while in the movie, they don't.
  • In the book, Pauline plays in the pantomime Cinderella, and Petrova plays in Jack and the Beanstalk, but in the movie they are both in Cinderella.


  1. ^ "The Stage / News / Wood to star in a BBC1 adaptation of Ballet Shoes". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  2. ^ "The UK TV Guide: BALLET SHOES". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  3. ^ Dadds, Kimberley (2007-07-20). "BBC announces 'Ballet Shoes' drama". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  4. ^ a b "Ballet Shoes dances onto BBC One". BBC Press Office. BBC. 2007-07-20. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Ballet Shoes: Interviews: Behind the Scenes/A Tale of Our Times". BBC Northern Ireland. Retrieved 2009-11-30. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Sense and Sensibility". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  7. ^ Keller, Louise (2008-12-18). "BALLET SHOES: DVD". Urban Cinefile. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  8. ^ "Emma Watson official website | Appearance of sisters in film". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  9. ^ "Emma Watson official website | Release in Europe on DVD". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  10. ^ "Ballet Shoes Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  11. ^ Thielman, Sam (2008-08-20). "BBC's 'Ballet Shoes' takes U.S. spin: Film reunites three 'Harry Potter' thesps". Variety. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  12. ^ "SCREENVISION PRESENTS BALLET SHOES STARRING HARRY POTTER'S EMMA WATSON". Screenvision. 2008-08-20. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  13. ^ Widder, Carrie (2008-07-24). "'Ballet Shoes' in Theaters Week Before DVD Release". Home Media Magazine. Questex Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 
  14. ^ "Emma Watson official website | Ballet Shoes USA". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  15. ^ "Emma Watson official website | TV One and CBC broadcasts Ballet Shoes". Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  16. ^ "Ballet Shoes" on Rotten Tomatoes
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ Myers, Wayne (2008-09-10). "On DVD: Excellent 'Ballet Shoes' makes its 'pointe'". The Onieda Daily Dispatch. Retrieved 2009-11-30. [dead link]
  19. ^ Orndorf, Brian (2008-08-30). "Ballet Shoes". Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  20. ^ Tucker, Betty Joe. "Those Fabulous Fossils". ReelTalk Movie Reviews. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  21. ^ Catanzarite, Gina (2008). "Ballet Shoes". Parents' Choice. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 

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