Nini Theilade, Ballet Dancer in 1935's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' Dies at 102

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Nini Theilade

She was discovered by the legendary Max Reinhardt, who directed her in the adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic fantasy.

Nini Theilade, a ballet dancer who appeared with Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney in the 1935 film adaptation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, has died. She was 102.

Theilade died Tuesday in her sleep at a retirement home in Funen, Denmark, Fatima Cerqueira, a teacher at The Royal Danish Ballet School, told The Hollywood Reporter

A Midsummer Night's Dream, co-directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle for Warner Bros., featured a cast that also included Dick Powell, Joe E. Brown and Victor Jory.

Theilade was just a teenager when she portrayed one of Titania's fairies in the memorable "Triumph of the Night" sequence. After her dance, she is lifted into the starry sky, her hands twirling for the camera. 

Theilade had appeared opposite Rooney in an earlier scene, rousing his character, the court jester Puck, as she sings, "Over hill, over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier."

During production, Reinhardt handed over the film's choreography to her.

The movie won Oscars for film editing and cinematography — Hal Mohr's victory in the latter marks the only time in history that a write-in candidate prevailed — and received nominations for best picture and assistant director as well.

Born in Purwokerto, Indonesia in 1915, Theilade attended ballet school in Copenhagen. She was spotted during a tour of the U.S. by Reinhardt, and the influential theater and film director hired her for performances in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg and Florence.

"At the time — don't forget, this was many, many years ago — it was very 'in' to have something that we called recital; that means that the person stood alone on the stage and filled the whole program alone. And that's how I started," Theilade said in a undated video interview.

"And for three years, I traveled all over the States, with my own dancers. And then Max Reinhardt, he discovered me, so to speak, because he saw one of these recitals. He said, 'Well, I don't know anything about dancing, but this person doesn’t only dance, she acts.'"

According to IMDb, it was her final film performance. Theilade then joined the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo company in the late 1930s under the direction of choreographer Leonide Massine. Later, she became a choreographer and instructor in Denmark.

De Havilland, who portrayed Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream, turned 101 on July 1 and is the film's sole surviving castmember.

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