The Turning Point: a film inspired by a true story

A film about choices, love and friendship, ambition and regret, which happens to take place behind the scenes of a ballet company. The Turning Point, from 1977, is one of the most accurate and perfect films capturing the world of ballet after The Red Shoes.

Nominated for 9 Oscars: Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Art Direction, Supporting Actor and Actress (Mikhail Baryshnikov and Leslie Browne) as well as Best Actress (both Shirley McLaine and Anne Bancroft) it’s very hard to find nowadays, unfortunately.

Originally, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly turned down the roles that ended up going to Anne and Shirley, even though Anne, differently from Shirley, had never taken a ballet class in her life. Not that we could ever tell it by seeing the movie.

The screenplay by Arthur Laurents , who also signed West Side Story and The Way We Were, is in fact inspired by the true story of Nora Kaye, one of the stars and founders of the American Ballet Theater, at the time also the wife of the director, Herbert Ross.

Nora and her childhood friend, Isabel Brown, danced together, but Isabel gave up her career for her marriage (unlike in the film, it wasn’t because she got pregnant and stopped dancing) while Nora followed a brilliant career. Isabel is the inspiration for Shirley’s character and went on to teach and had four children. Her firstborn is precisely Leslie Browne, the dancer and actress that plays Emilia, Shirley McLaine‘s daughter. And it wasn’t intentional. Leslie only joined the cast when the “original Emilia,” Gelsey Kirkland, was injured and gave up the role. Also, like her character, she was Nora’s (in the movie, Emma, Anne’s character) goddaughter.

Isn’t that amazing?


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