Moira Shearer

  1. Sarah Churchill, Royal Wedding  UK: Wedding Bells), 1950.      Fred Astaire and Shearer – wouldn’t that have been something! Forget it cashing in on the wedding of Queen (then Princess) Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, the MGMusical is best remembered for Fred dancing on the ceiling… the song (take a deep breath), How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I’ve Been a Liar All My Life… and poor Judy Garland’s suicide attempt, using broken glass on her neck. Her role as Fred’s sister was taken over by Jane Powell.
  2. Zizi Jeanmaire, Hans Christian Anderson, 1952.     Producer Samuel Goldwyn asked The Archers (director Michael Powell, writer-producer Emeric Pressburger) if their Red Shoes sensation would play opposite Danny Kaye. “It was useless to tell him that she had returned   to ballet and called The Red Shoes a prostitution of her art.” Legend   says she was pregnant – yet she made The Archers’ Tales of Hoffman. Powell said their “most perfect relationship imagined between two creative artists” was based not upon love… but suspicion and fear.  Sam’s next target, Margot Fonteyn, turned into, and this was her billing…“Jeanmaire The Famous French Ballerina.”
  3. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1952.   Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Liz Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov) for the runaway Princess Ann.   A further 28 actresses were seen, the good, bad and risible – like the current sex-bombs Yvonne De Carlo Diana Dors, Gina Lollobrigida, Sylvana Mangano, Shelley Winters.  Apart from, perhaps, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman and Wanda Hendrix (even though  her real name as Dixie), the Hollywood hopefuls  – singer Rosemary Clooney(George’s aunt), Jeanne Crain, Nina Foch, Janet Leigh, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Dorothy Malone, Patricia Neal, Barbara Rush – were soon discarded, lacking the stature of Euro-royalty. Idem for the Euros – Swedish Bibi Andersson, and the French Capucine, Leslie Caron, Jeanne Moreau. Which left several perfect Brits Claire Bloom, Joan Collins, Glynis Johns, Kay Kendall, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Moira Shearer, and, of course, Audrey, … soon gracing the Time cover, hailed by the New York Times as a “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike” with, added Variety, a “delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark,” (And, Indeed, it did for evermore).
  4. Cyd Charisse, Brigadoon, 1953.      Like Astaire before him, she now refused Gene Kelly. Back in March 1951, Kelly tried to persuade the UK dancing star to join him in the musical (more silly than quaint),   about a Scottish town waking up for a day once a century!  She’d rather have  needles in her thighs.  She made six films only between 1948-1960, preferring the stage: Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as her Broadway debut, and Major Barbara.
  5. Ludmilla Tcherina, Luna de Miel (Honeymoon), Spain/UK, 1959.       “Such a talent, such look, such hair, such legs!   Michael, I want to dance with Miss Shearer. You must arrange it, please. I would even put on the red shoes myself!”   Director Michael Powell wanted the dream as much as the great Spanish dancer, Antonio, but the redhead had hung up her the red shoes for good… for acting.
  6. Sophia Loren, El Cid, 1961.    “I’ve always found my marriage and my children infinitely more important than any career.” Producer Samuel Bronston wanted Shearer, German teen Christine Kaufman (15; living with Tony Curtis at age 16), the French Jeanne Moreau and Swiss Lisolette Pulver –  being way cheaper than La Loren. Ava Gardner simply refused because the titular Charlton Heston’s role was bigger than hers. Heston nearly followed her on learning  La Loren’s $1m salary was way bigger than his. And that, peop[e, is why he would never look at her  during their love scenes. Such a gent!
  7. Karl Johnson, The Tempest, 1979.  During his  25 years obsession about filming the Shakespeare play about the exiled Milanese Duke Prospero, UK director Michael Powell  saw the duke’s reluctant  slave, Arial,  as being male or female. His first, 50s’  choice was, almost inevitably,  Shearer, his 1947  Red Shoes discovery. By the 70s, she was  Mia Farrow (with then-hubby Andre Previn providing the score) and finally, the veteran comic Brit, Howerd. According to Dominic Nolan in The Greatest Movies You’ll Never See book, Derek Jarman felt he’d inherited Powell’s dream. Hah! He  made a  (typically) homoerotic job of it  in 1979.    With (obviously) Arial as a man again.  “In a white jump suit and white makeup,” scorned  New York Times critic Vincent Canby, “as if he were on his way to a mime performance.”


 Birth year: 1926Death year: 2006Other name: Casting Calls:  7