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The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be screening a restored version of The Red Shoes (1948) on Thursday, August 5. Through August 1, visitors to the Making Movies exhibition can view Hein Heckroth’s storyboards for The Red Shoes and a “picture script” from the movie.
Hein Heckroth was a Surrealist painter and set designer who lived and worked in Germany in the years after World War I. Building on the then-radical theories of Edward Gordon Craig and Adolphe Appia, he earned an international reputation working with the Kurt Jooss dance company creating avant-garde sets and costumes for their productions.
In 1933, Heckroth left Germany when he was blacklisted by the Nazis for refusing to leave his Jewish wife, the artist Ada Maier. They moved to England where Heckroth designed operas for Kurt Weill, Carl Ebert, and others, and continued working with the Jooss dance company, which had also moved to England. In 1943, production designer Vincent Korda saw Heckroth’s design work in a stage production of War and Peace and hired him to work on Gabriel Pascal’s film Caesar and Cleopatra (1945). Soon he was recruited by Alfred Junge, the head designer for The Archers, the production unit founded by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. There he designed costumes for A Matter of Life and Death (1947) and Black Narcissus (1949).
Given his experience with avant-garde theater and designing for dance, he was the natural choice for production designer for The Red Shoes. Powell and Pressburger gave him enormous freedom to experiment, and he created beautiful surreal sets and costumes with materials such as chiffon, gauze, and cellophane. His stunning designs for The Red Shoes won him an Oscar for color art direction in 1948.
These two designs and the “picture script” for the dance sequence in The Red Shoes come from the collection of Heckroth’s colleague Edward Carrick, another important production designer in England at the time.