Moira Shearer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Moira Shearer
Moira Shearer 1954.jpg
Moira Shearer in 1954
Born Moira Shearer King
(1926-01-17)17 January 1926
Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, UK
Died 31 January 2006(2006-01-31) (aged 80)
Oxford, England, UK
Other names Lady Kennedy
Years active 1938–1987
Spouse(s) Ludovic Kennedy (1950–2006; her death)
Children Alastair, Ailsa, Rachel, and Fiona

Moira Shearer, Lady Kennedy (17 January 1926 – 31 January 2006), was an internationally renowned British ballet dancer and actress.

Early life[edit]

She was born Moira Shearer King at Morton Lodge in Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland, the only child of civil engineer Harold Charles King and Margaret Crawford Reid, née Shearer.[1] In 1931 her family moved to Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, where her father worked as a civil engineer and where she received her first dancing training under a former pupil of Enrico Cecchetti.[2] She returned to Britain in 1936 and trained with Flora Fairbairn in London for a few months before she was accepted as a pupil by the Russian teacher Nicholas Legat.[2] At his studio she met Mona Inglesby[3] who gave Shearer a part in her new ballet Endymion, presented at an all star matinee at the Cambridge Theatre in 1938.[4] After three years with Legat, she joined the Sadler's Wells Ballet School. After the outbreak of World War II, her parents took her to live in Scotland.[2] She joined Mona Inglesby's International Ballet[5] for its 1941 provincial tour and West End season before moving on to Sadler's Wells in 1942.

Film career[edit]

Her first "claim to fame" is as Posy Fossil in the advertisements for the Noel Streatfeild book Ballet Shoes while she was training under Flora Fairbairn, a good friend of Streatfeild's.

She came to international attention for her first film role as Victoria Page in the Powell & Pressburger ballet-themed film The Red Shoes, (1948).[6] Even her hair matched the titular footwear, and the role and film were so powerful that although she went on to star in other films and worked as a dancer for many decades, she is primarily known for playing "Vicky".

Shearer retired from ballet in 1953, but she continued to act, appearing as Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the 1954 Edinburgh Festival. She worked again for Powell on The Tales of Hoffmann and on the controversial film Peeping Tom (1960), which damaged Powell's own career.

In 1972, she was chosen by the BBC to present the Eurovision Song Contest when it was staged at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. According to author and historian John Kennedy O'Connor's The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History, Shearer accepted the role of hostess because her children wanted something to tease her with in the future.[7] She also wrote for The Daily Telegraph newspaper and gave talks on ballet worldwide.

The choreographer Gillian Lynne persuaded her to return to ballet in 1987 to play L. S. Lowry's mother in A Simple Man for the BBC.

Personal life[edit]

In 1950, Moira Shearer married journalist and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy. They were married in the Chapel Royal in London's Hampton Court Palace[6] and in their vows did not include the word "obey".[8] She and Kennedy had a son, Alastair, and three daughters, Ailsa, Rachel, and Fiona. Shearer died at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, England at the age of 80.[9]


Year Title Role
1948 The Red Shoes Victoria Page
1951 The Tales of Hoffmann Stella/Olympia
1953 The Story of Three Loves Paula Woodward
1955 The Man Who Loved Redheads Sylvia/Daphne/Olga/Colette
1960 Peeping Tom Vivian
1961 Black Tights Roxane
1987 A Simple Man (TV movie) Mother

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debra Craine; Judith Mackrell (19 August 2010). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford University Press. pp. 408–. ISBN 0-19-956344-6. 
  2. ^ a b c Fisher, Hugh (1952). "Moira Shearer" (2). Dancers of To-day. 
  3. ^ Mona Inglesby with Kay Hunter (2008). "Ballet in the Blitz". Groundnut Publishing. 
  4. ^ Handley-Taylor, Geoffrey (1947). "Mona Inglesby, Ballerina and Choreographer". Vawser and Wiles. 
  5. ^ "Mona Inglesby". London: The Independent. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Percival, John. "Shearer, Moira". ODNB. OUP. Retrieved 11 October 2014. 
  7. ^ O'Connor, John Kennedy. The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History. Carlton Books, UK. 2007. ISBN 978-1-84442-994-3.
  8. ^ "Moira of the Red Shoes". Photoplay. 1950. 
  9. ^ Obituary in The New York Times, 2 February 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2014.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Republic of Ireland Bernadette Ní Ghallchóir
Eurovision Song Contest presenter
Succeeded by
Luxembourg Helga Guitton