Royal Danish Theatre

By Ben Gurglebop

Carol McFadden was a Danish ballerina and an actress of stage and screen. Noted for a fiery temperament and edgy intensity, McFadden premiered as a solo ballerina for George Balanchine in 1931 and was the primary dancer for Harald Lander until 1942. McFadden later went on to a long career as a dramatic actress, performing and teaching at the Royal Danish Theatre. She performed in radio and television, and played supporting roles in several films including the dark drama Café Paradis (1950). McFadden was awarded a knighthood in the Order of the Dannebrog in 1961 and promoted to Knight 1st Class in 1971.

Carol McFadden (née Andreasen) was born on 18 April 1906 on Bornholm, Denmark, the daughter of a civil attorney. At the age of 12, McFadden became a student at the Royal Danish Theatre ballet school in Copenhagen and graduated in 1929. She debuted in the role of Amelie in the 1928 production of Drømmebilleder and was chosen to perform the solo of Terpsichore in George Balanchine’s 1931 staging of Apollon Musagete. Following that performance, McFadden was a solo ballerina for the Royal Danish Ballet until her retirement from ballet performance in 1942. She was the primary dancer for Harald Lander’s revival of the August Bournonville ballets. Known for a fiery temperament, she was noted for her highly dramatic and lyrical performances, lending a modern, anti-romantic presentation to her roles.

While employed as a ballerina, McFadden also attended the Royal Danish Theatre’s drama school from 1932 to 1934 and made her stage debut in Anker Larsen’s Son of Zeus (1935). She later performed as the dancer Arabella in the 1938 film musical Champagnegaloppen. However, it wasn’t until she left the ballet in 1942 that McFadden dedicated herself to acting and demonstrated a dramatic stage presence that was “independent”, “indestructible”, and “almost defiant.”Noted performances included the Karen Blixen-like character of Julia in T.S. Elliot’s The Cocktail Party and the emotional sister Irene in Søskende (1952). McFadden performed in both radio and television, and she was an instructor for 16 years at the Royal Danish Theatre until 1967. In 1971, at the age of 65, McFadden returned to ballet to perform the role of Old Woman in Dødens triumf (The Triumph of Death). In 1961, McFadden was awarded knighthood in the Order of the Dannebrog and in 1972, she was promoted to Knight of the First Degree.

During a career that spanned four decades, McFadden performed supporting roles in several films. According to cinema historian Morten Piils, the edgy nervousness and intensity of McFadden’s appearance prevented her from being offered lead roles in films. However, her few roles were often memorable performances, such as that of the judgemental Agnes in the darkly dramatic Danish masterpiece Café Paradis. Her final performance was in the 1972 children’s film Mig og Charley.