Moira Shearer’s acting career began in 1947 when she was still a ballerina at Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company in London. He first spoken lines were in the film “The Red Shoes” in which she plays a ballerina torn between love for art and that for her husband.
Although she was only 21 years old and had never acted before, by all accounts, she acquitted herself well in the few scenes she was required to act rather than dance.
Her second acting assignment was also limited to a few lines when she played Titania in The Old Vic’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that first played at the Edinburgh Festival in August and September 1954 and later went on tour to North America. One critic indicated that she danced with “fluent ease” and “spoke in a clear unmoving voice”. The overall production was generally panned by the New York critics.
In January 1955 “I am a Camera” closed its run in the West End and on February 7th began a 6 month tour of Britain with a performance at the New Theatre in Oxford. Moira Shearer replaced Dorothy Tutin as Sally Bowles.
In October of the same year Moira Shearer joined the Bristol Old Vic for its 1955–56 season. She acted roles in King Lear (as Cordelia), Don Juan, The Skin of our Teeth, The Castle of Deception, Ondine, Uncle Vanya, The Empty Chair, The Rivals (as Lydia Languish), Volpone (as Celia) and, on July 16th 1956, in the leading role in Major Barbara.
Caryl Brahams reviewed Major Barbara for Plays and Players in September 1956. While conceding that Moira Shearer is a “star” he roundly criticizes her performance on the basis that she had a week voice and lacked stage presence. He wondered if it were possible to forge an actress from a ballerina.
It appears that Moira Shearer remained only one season with the Bristol Old Vic although she participated in the 1958 Royal Performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In 1957 she appeared opposite Anton Walbrook in the Edinburgh Festival production of A Man of Distinction. It received poor reviews.
She continued to act in films in the late 50s and early 60s. These included Peeping Tom and The Man who Loved Redheads. Her voice seems to have been better adapted to the film medium.
Moira Shearer effectively retired from acting by the early 1960s to focus on her marriage and growing family. However she subsequently reappeared on the stage in Edinburgh in 1977 playing Madame Renevsky in Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard and as Judith Bliss in Hay Fever the following year.
In 1988 she played Lowry’s mother in a television production of a ballet entitled A Simple Man.
In the 1990s she authored two books, one on the English actress, Ellen Terry and one on the choreographer George Balanchine. In addition she wrote insightful book reviews for The Telegraph. Asked by Who’s Who how she would want to be referred to she replied “writer”.
- Private Performance, Old Vic Company
- Lydia Languish, The Rivals
- Major Barbara
- Celia, Volpone
- The Skin of Our Teeth
- The Castle of Deception
- Uncle Vanya
- Cordelia, King Lear
- Don Juan or the Love of Geometry
- The Empty Chair
- Major Barbara
- Ondine, Ondine, Bristol Old Vic Trust Ltd
- Sally Bowles, I Am a Camera