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Moira Shearer - Red Shoe Ballerina Dies

The Red Shoes (1948)Moira Shearer, the ballerina and actress whose debut film, The Red Shoes, created an international sensation in 1948, has died. The wife of fellow Scot, author and campaigner Ludovik Kennedy, she was 80.

Moira ShearerShearer died at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, said Mr Kennedy. He said that she had become weak since her birthday last month, but he did not disclose the cause of death.

Shearer, born in Dunfermline, Scotland, became principal dancer at London's famous Sadler's Wells in 1942 and won her first major role in 1946, playing Sleeping Beauty at London's Royal Opera House.

A stunning redhead, she won the role as the doomed dancer Victoria in The Red Shoes, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was a big international hit and was nominated for the Oscar for best picture. It won Oscars for best art direction and best music.

The film was loosely based on a Hans Christian Andersen story and is celebrated for its rich use of color and the intimate view of backstage life in the world of ballet. Shearer's character becomes a great star but is torn between her love for a young composer and her career, which is guided by a jealous impresario.

A 1999 survey by the British Film Institute s ranked The Red Shoes as one of the 10-greatest British films of all time.

Though she took roles in later films - including Powell and Pressburger's The Tales of Hoffmann in 1951 and Powell's 1960 thriller, Peeping Tom - Shearer remained ambivalent toward films, preferring to focus her efforts on dance.

"The ballet was the thing to which she was really committed — the film industry was a bit of a distraction," Kennedy said.

Alistair Spalding, artistic director of Sadler's Wells, said members of the company were saddened by news of her death.

"She was deeply connected with the history of Sadler's Wells. She started her career here and danced and toured with the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet," said Spalding.