and Posy is Vicky Page !!
This week I found out something absolutely astonishing and amazing, combining many of my favourite interests in one story.
And I also think the way I found out might be of interest to some readers – so I will cover both of these matters in this post...
The new information is about one of my all-time lifetime favourite books, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes, (4 blog entries, many mentions, and Streatfeild one of the most-featured authors on the site). And it concerns who was chosen to portray Posy in the publicity for the book on its first publication in 1936... see below for the MOIRA SHEARER connection.
I made my discovery via a mighty newsletter from the journalist and writer Caroline Crampton – she puts out her ‘No Complaints’ each Friday. Newsletters is an area I am only starting to dip into, but I feel they are adding to my life.
I know, I know - we all have enough to read and to plough through - but newsletters are a good way to hear about interesting things in brief, and then investigate in detail just the things that you want to pursue.
And let’s face it – we all have inboxes full of emails that we didn’t ask for and don’t want – might at least find something that is of interest and fun and well-chosen. So here’s a few newsletters that I like:
1) No Complaints You can sign up for Caroline’s newsletter here – it is, roughly speaking, a list of ideas for things to watch read or listen to each week.
2) Lunch Poem by Barbara Speed 'A poem I like and some thoughts about it, once a month'
Sign up here. In this case you will be sent a poem every couple of weeks, along with a commentary on it. Just right, not too demanding and a delight to be sent something beautiful, usually at lunchtime..
3) Sarah Ward’s newsletter Our own Sarah, crime fiction writer extraordinaire, has an occasional newsletter talking about what is going on in her world – and about her marvellous books: A Patient Fury is the latest. Sign up here.
4) Domestic Sluttery – click here. ‘Domestic Sluttery is a daily newsletter that makes your life more fun, more beautiful, more delicious and more interesting. We brighten up every day with our favourite things: design, food, fashion, travel and excellent women past and present.’
There you go – between them they can charm, delight, inform and entertain.
And now on to
Ballet shoes & Red Shoes– and Caroline would have earned her keep for all time by telling me about this in her newsletter...
Ballet Shoes is one of the finest children’s books ever written. When it was published, Noel Streatfeild (who one always feels was way ahead of her time and very serious about marketing herself and her books) wanted three young girls to portray the Fossil sisters for publicity purposes. And the Posy she found was Moira Shearer, who was 10 when Ballet Shoes came out, and as red-headed as Posy was. And who went on to be one of the most famous ballerinas of her age – because she starred in the unique and unsurpassable ballet film The Red Shoes in 1948. It's probably the most famous ballet film ever, and is beloved of and has inspired generations of impressionable young women. So, rather like the book Ballet Shoes, then, appropriately enough.
This is how Noel S tells the story:
My publishers wanted some photographs of three real children dancers to advertise the book. I went to a Miss Fairbairn whom I knew, who had a well-known dancing school, and asked her to help me. She said she would, and I walked round the school with her looking for three children dancers to match the children in my story. I found my first two easily, a fair pretty child who looked like Pauline, the eldest of my three, a dark intense child who would do well as Petrova, the middle one of my family, and then I was stuck. The real dancer in my book was the baby of the family, called Posy, but nowhere could I see anyone who looked like my little red head.
Then what seemed to me a miracle happened. A door opened, and my Posy walked in. "There she is," I said to Miss Fairbairn, "quite perfect." Miss Fairbairn shook her head. "That's a little girl called King, but she wouldn't do for your photograph, she's far too small to stand on her pointes." "But I must have her," I argued, "she's just right, and she's got a dancer's face." Well, I wore Miss Fairbairn down and at last it was agreed that I could have "little king", as Miss Fairbairn called her, provided in the photograph she could be in the middle, held in position by the other two children. Some years later Miss Fairbairn sent me a copy of that photograph with a note saying "Did you know that the little red head you insisted on using for the photograph because she had a dancer's face has become Moira Shearer?"
Streatfeild tells this story much later: as a prelude to an interview with Moira Shearer - you can read all of this, including the interview, on a site dedicated to the Powell-Pressburger team who made The Red Shoes. It is here.
In the film, Moira Shearer plays Vicky Page, a talented ballerina 'torn between her dedication to dance and her desire to love.'
Additional fact: in the most recent version of Ballet Shoes, shown on the BBC at Christmas 2007, Posy was played by Lucy Boynton – who is one of the stars of the new film of Murder on the Orient Express.
And of course any Moira in the public eye is of particular interest to me – the Streatfeild item has the title A Question for Moira, which puts me on my mettle…