(Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to write posts, reviews, etc., as I make my way through my Netflix cue, but it seemed a waste to just list titles on the movie page. Plus this is a neat way to fill in the gaps when it's taking me an extra long time to read a book. I promise--PROMISE--no thousand word reviews. Just a few lines.)
Noel Streatfeild's 1937 book Ballet Shoes was one of my favorites when I was growing up, and it still is. Here's the story: three orphans are adopted by an eccentric elderly geologist who suddenly disappears, leaving them to fend for themselves in Depression Era London under the guardianship of his hapless niece. The family hopes they've found a solution to their money problems when the girls are given scholarships to an Academy of Theater and Dance where they are trained to be professional (read: paid) child performers. In the end, one turns out to be a ballet dancer, one an actress, and the theater-resistant one becomes an airplane pilot. How could I ever resist? Anyway, I knew there had been a BBC production of it done in the early '70s; when I found it was out on DVD, it immediately went to the top of my Netflix queue.
In short (really, trust me)--it's good but not great. The girls cast in the lead parts don't look quite right (the character of Petrova is supposed to be Russian, but the young actress playing her is as English as scones and currant jam) but they perform well enough and that's what's important. The movie gets off to a rocky start, with an awkward, superexpository opening scene that's not helped by the fact that most of the telling is done by the extremely shaky actress playing Miss Brown, the dithery niece who is the girls' guardian. However, once all the characters are introduced and their origins explained and we get into the main part of the story--life at the dance and theater school--things pick up and move along quite smoothly, if with more efficiency than artistry.
If you haven't read the book, you probably would watch this, shrug, and dismiss it; if you have read the book, you'll find yourself missing all the little details about the girls' every day lives and the minutiae of the theater world in 1930s London. But you know what? The BBC could have filmed a bunch of kittens rolling around a copy of the book with the pages being turned over periodically and I would be happy. I love this book that much.