|Written by||Heidi Thomas|
Noel Streatfeild (novel)
|Directed by||Sandra Goldbacher|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||85 minutes|
|Original network||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. 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. "Ballet Shoes" co-stars former Harry Potter stars Emma Watson as Pauline Fossil, Gemma Jones as Dr. Jakes, and Richard Griffiths as Gum.
A practical young orphan, Sylvia Brown, and her stern nurse Nana come to live at her uncle Gum's house in London, England after her parents die. Gum is a paleontologist and is reluctant to take his niece 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.
Years later, Sylvia is now grown up and still living with Gum and Nana. Gum brings her back an orphaned baby girl, who has been rescued from RMS Titanic after her parents drown when the ship hit an iceberg. He names her Pauline Fossil. Gum legally adopts Pauline. When Pauline is two years old, Gum adopts another orphan that he found, a Russian baby girl called Petrova. Petrova's biological parents are tragically killed. In 1923, Gum adopts a third baby, Posy, with ballet shoes that her mother owned and necklaces for the three girls. In a letter Gum explains that Posy's father died and her mother doesn't have time to care for her daughter. He also left some money in the bank for Sylvia, enough to last five years. That is the last the family hears of him.
During The Great Depression, Pauline and Petrova go to school at Cromwell House, but Sylvia can't afford to send Posy. As Gum's money runs out, Sylvia 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, an impractical dance teacher; 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 tells Sylvia to let the girls train at The Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, a stage school. Sylvia and Nana refuse, but after talking with Theo, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Jakes Sylvia reluctantly agrees to let the girls get trained to earn a living. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith and Dr. 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 Sylvia for housekeeping money. But the role goes to Pauline's head and she's rude to Winifred, her understudy. Pauline ends up losing her temper at Mr. French, the director, and since she's been rude Pauline is kicked out of the play and the role goes 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. Sylvia 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 Sylvia go camping. 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, Sylvia 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 Sylvia will go to Hollywood with her. Unexpectedly, Gum comes back safe and sound. He agrees to teach Petrova to fly planes. The movie ends with Pauline and Posy vowing to get Petrova into the history books, while Petrova flies over Sylvia and Mr. Simpson's wedding.
A July 2007 report from Digital Spy written by Kimberley Dadds announced the involvement of Woods, Griffiths and Warren; the BBC announced that open casting for the roles of the sisters would be a week later. 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. 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. Louise Keller of Urban Cinefile notes that this is Emma Watson's first role other than that of Hermione, 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.
Both Victoria Wood and Thomas described Streatfeild's novel as a book they have long treasured. 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".
The film was released on DVD in Europe in Region 2 on 7 January 2008. The film had a limited release in U.S. theaters on 26 August 2008; this can be seen as part of Screenvision's initiative to expand its venue. 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. 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.Ballet Shoes was released on DVD in North America, Region 1, on 2 September 2008. The film premiered on Christmas Eve on TV ONE in New Zealand. It will be broadcast in Canada on CBC. It was aired in Australia on 7 June 2009.
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. Brian Orndorf wrote 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." Betty Joe Tucker of ReelTalk Movie Reviews praised the way film evokes the 1930s. 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.
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