Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye
Synopsis of Hans Christian Andersen
A fantasy fairy tale about the life of Hans Christian Andersen weaving some of his most famous tales into the story, starring Danny Kaye as the great storyteller. It includes some truly great musical moments, such as Inchworm, The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor’s New Clothes, etc.
Review of Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye
I hadn’t seen Danny Kaye’s Hans Christian Andersen in many years. Not since my childhood, actually. There are certain movies that are magical when you’re a child, but don’t work as well when you re-watch them as an adult. Disney’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a good example. Thankfully, Hans Christian Andersen doesn’t fall into that category. I enjoyed it as much as an adult as I did as a child; perhaps more.
Hans Christian Andersen is not historically accurate, and doesn’t pretend to be. The movie actually begins with a disclaimer to that effect. Danny Kaye plays the part of Hans Christian Andersen, putting his talents to excellent use. In addition to being one of the great film clowns, he had a wonderful rapport with children, which the film puts to very good use. The basic plot involves Hans Christian Andersen, a cobbler and storyteller, who tends to live somewhat with his head in the clouds, telling the children stories when they should be in school. Soon enough, the schoolmaster gives an ultimatum to the town council, that the cobbler goes or he does.
Before they can officially exile him, Hans’ young apprentice, Peter, talks him into going to Copenhagen, where Hans quickly gets into trouble and jail, only to be released to the custody of a government official who needs the services of a cobbler, to help a “diva” ballerina (Zizi Jeanmaire). Hans falls in love at first sight with the ballerina, not realizing at first that she’s married to Niels (Farley Granger), producer of the ballet. Their marriage seems to be the kind that alternates between affection and fighting.
When Hans sees Niels slap her (in retaliation for her slapping him first, which Hans didn’t see), Hans believes that she’s in an unhappy marriage. He begins fantasizing about his rescuing her, her falling in love with Hans, and their eventual marriage. The dream sequences break the audience’s heart. More than once I was tempted to yell at the screen that Hans was being a fool. A complement to the acting ability of Danny Kaye, and the rest of the cast. Hans pens the story of The Little Mermaid to tell the ballerina how he feels, but instead, she and Niels plan on making their next ballet based on the story.
Eventually, Hans and Peter return to their village, where Hans helps a young boy named Peter, whom the other children are teasing about his shaved head, with a wonderful musical rendition of The Ugly Duckling, which is eventually printed by Peter’s father, the newspaper publisher. Afterward, Hans returns to Copenhagen when the touring ballet company does. This leads to a sad moment where he tries to break up his friendship with Peter. Because Peter warns him that the ballerina is happily married after all. Hans is locked in a prop room while the ballet happens – an extended scene that runs nearly 15 minutes. Afterward, Hans realizes the truth, and returns home, reuniting and reconciling with Peter on the way.
Hans Christian Andersen is a wonderful film for both children and adults, and I recommend it highly.
Be sure to check out the funny movie quotes from Hans Christian Andersen
Music from Hans Christian Andersen
Some of the music from Hans Christian Andersen are absolute classics, including the following:
- The King’s New Clothes
- I’m Hans Christian Andersen
- Wonderful Copenhagen
- Ice Skating Ballet
- Dream Ballet
- The Ugly Duckling
- Anywhere I Wander
- Fantasy Wedding Sequence
- No Two People
- The Little Mermaid Ballet
Editorial review of Hans Christian Andersen, starring Danny Kaye, courtesy of Amazon.com
Of all the Danny Kaye movies, this musical biography of the legendary vagabond storyteller is definitely the most poignant, extending the performer’s range far beyond his usual comic shtick. It may not be as funny as Wonder Man, but it has so much more going for it. In fact, the film is really more about Kaye than Andersen, providing rare insight into his humanitarian ideals and rapport with children. The Frank Loesser score is beautiful, as is the Technicolor cinematography. Among the songs performed, Inchworm, Thumbelina, and Ugly Duckling are the standout favorites. —Bill Desowitz