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 Wonde... more »r 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« less
Hans Christian Andersen not quite, but very entertaining
Roger Strutton | Assens Denmark | 03/17/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75) was an Ugly Duckling. He lived in the third largest town Odense, in Denmark. The son of a cobbler he was poverty ridden and a failure as an actor and it wasn't until he moved to Copenhagen and won the patronage of Frederick VI, through his poetry, that he wrote his fairy tales and developed into a swan. Like many artists he wasn't particularly happy, and never did marry, although he was very fond of Jenny Lind (1820-87) the Swedish Nightingale a soprano given the name by P.T. Barnum during her tour of the United States between 1850-52.) Charles Vidor's film does state at the beginning, This is not the story of Hans Christian Andersen but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales. The Danes objected to the way Hans Christian Andersen was portrayed even though Goldwyn had rejected 21 previous manuscripts, so the film company inserted this statement in the credits. Danny Kaye with his chiselled features does resemble H.C.Andersen when looking at his profile, but apart from this facial feature that's where it stops. Kaye had dark hair but Hollywood soon changed that and he became a blonde, Andersen also had dark hair but he kept it that way. Unlike some earlier musicals, this film does have a strong story line with loads of songs written by "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Frank Loessen, such as Thumbelina, Ugly Duckling, No Two People, and of course Wonderful Copenhagen. The scenery is very clever, the backgrounds look like illustrations from fairy tale books, but as the camera zooms in to the foreground the buildings and props become three dimensional similar to a pop-up-book. There are four ballet scenes that I probably found boring back in `52, but revisiting them now, they are visually very interesting, technically I wouldn't know if they are good or mediocre but for a Hollywood musical film, four ballets must of taken an enormous amount of consideration seeing as the film is really for kids. Once again the backdrops for the ballets also resemble fairy tale illustrations and pop-up-books. Instead of a soprano, Andersen falls in love with a ballet dancer and here's a musical that doesn't have a very happy ending because poor Hans gets mixed up with a married woman. The ballet dancer Doro, is played by Zizi Jeanmaire, and is married to Niels played by Farley Granger. During the last part of the film, the audience is taken behind the scenes of the ballet company playing at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, but this isn't a film of a show included in a show, similar to earlier musicals, but an uplifting musical film with lots of music with catchy tunes helped by a ton of children. The last ballet scene takes 17 minutes, quite long for a popular movie. In the film Hans writes a story especially for his love Doro, unfortunately Niels locks him in a cupboard so Andersen never sees her perform but has to use his imagination. The ballet takes place on land and under the ocean. The surface waves are pop-up so that the dancers can be seen dancing in between the swells, it's really very clever visually, and there's no trickery here. Under the sea filled with monsters and witches, the heroine is probably attached to a pulley so that she can be seen swimming for the surface. There are no blue screens in this film, all effects are up-front and work perfectly similar to a staged ballet. Once again the technicolor process is used and this enhances the fairy tale effect with vivid colors. Hans Christian Andersen fairy stories are not violent when compared to the Grimm brothers, but the themes usually have a lesson, and in the story written for Doro's ballet, "The Little Mermaid," it is saying that aiming for the stars does not always bring happiness, but then of course Walt Disney hadn't yet arrived on the scene and he soon changed that philosophy."
Memorable and magical -- a must to share with your kids
Roger Strutton | 03/28/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With all due respect, Leonard Maltin just doesn't get it with regard to this movie, and I hate to think his negative comments might prevent someone from seeing it. This was one of the most memorable movies from my childhood -- and I can only have seen it twice at the most, because there were no videos in those days. We had the soundtrack album and those glorious and, yes, melodic, songs burned themselves into my consciousness. I could not wait until my daughter was old enough to share this movie with, and now that we are watching it together (she is three), it is a joy to see her, too, respond to the magic and music of Danny Kaye's charming performance. For the past three months it has been her most requested video, and when we aren't watching it, she wants me to sing the songs, and when I can't do that, she sings them herself! And now that she is familiar with the musical versions of the fairy tales, she wants them read to her, and is thereby learning to listen to much longer and more complex stories than before.This really is a special movie. No, it's not an accurate portrayal of Anderson's life, and it doesn't pretend to be. In fact it says right there in the opening frame, "This is not the story of his life, but rather a fairy tale about this spinner of fairy tales." And yes, the plot is a little limp. So as a movie it only gets four stars, not five. But it doesn't matter. There is so much charm and magic and wonderful music here, that the experience of watching it, even over and over again, is a five-star experience that makes for lifelong memories."
Enchanting, elegant study of filmmaking in the early 50's
Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 03/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN presents a fanciful, fictionalised re-telling of the famed storyteller's life, highlighted by Frank Loesser's beautiful score and the perfect casting of Danny Kaye in the central role.
As the film opens, cobbler Hans is entertaining the children of Odense, Denmark, with yet another fantastic tale, much to the consternation of the schoolmaster who feels the children are having their time wasted when they should be studying. This seems to be the opinion of most of the townspeople, so Hans is politely told to leave town...for a while anyway. Hans and his young assistant travel to the bright lights and bustle of Copenhagen for a fresh start, but old habits die hard and soon Hans is entertaining a new group of children with his amazing storytelling talents. When Hans is engaged to make slippers and toe-shoes for the city's ballet troupe, he becomes entranced by the prima ballerina Doro (Zizi Jeanmaire in her film debut) not knowing that she's married to the troupe's tough choreographer Niels (Farley Granger). His story of "The Little Mermaid", inspired by Doro, becomes the ballet's new work, but discovering the truth, Hans returns to Odense a hero, his storytelling now famous all over Europe.
Danny Kaye is just was is called for in the role of Hans. His natural warmth, fatherly air and ability to combine pathos and heart serves him well in his performance. Zizi Jeanmaire as the glamorous Doro likewise is perfect casting (although Moira Shearer from "The Red Shoes" was first choice, pregnancy prevented her from doing the film). Having shot to fame in husband Roland Petit's ballet version of "Carmen", Jeanmaire adds a European beauty and elegance to her role, and Petit staged all the ballet numbers in this film too. Farley Granger's Niels is the perfect foil to Danny Kaye's innocent and childlike Hans, and the love triangle is thrillingly brought to life in the Dream Ballet.
Frank Loesser's score is what most people remember the film for, and it's one of the best written by the legendary composer-lyricist. He had just come from his phenomenal success on Broadway with the score of "Guys and Dolls" and Hollywood was eager for him to ply his trade for the movie musicals of the 1950's. Songs like "Thumbelina", "The Ugly Duckling", "Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen" and "I'm Hans Christian Andersen" have become well-known standards. "Inchworm", bookended by children chanting their times tables, is so lovely and gentle in it's beauty, and "No Two People" is a jaunty little duet for Hans and Doro in the Dream Ballet.
This film was beautifully-photographed by Oscar-nominee Harry Stradling. The film also received Oscar nominations for Costume Design (Mary Wills, Madame Karinska), Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Music Scoring (Walter Scharf), Best Song and Best Sound Recording. The Technicolor photography is absolutely stunning and the bold colours pop off the screen with their brightness and clarity."
Delightful Children's Musical
shoutgrace | Charleston, WV United States | 05/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Danny Kaye plays the Danish cobbler-storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen. At the beginning he is said by the schoolmaster of the village of Odense he is causing trouble. The trouble is he tells stories to the village children, and they learn things like numbers falling in love and marrying each other. One town person said of his stories: They asked their daughter what time it was? She said "the minute and hour hands weren't speaking to each other. They were in love with the second hand. So they wouldn't make up until they met at 12 o' clock." After all the commotion with the village officials, Hans goes back to his cobbler shop. There his apprentice friend, Peter talks him into getting away from the village and going to Copenhagen. Reluctant at first Hans agrees to go to Copenhagen with Peter. There Hans meets and falls in love with Doro (Jeanmarie), a beautiful French ballerina. But later learns that she is married to the demanding Niels (Farley Granger). Overwhelmed by his love for her, he is inspired to write, 'The Little Mermaid' for Doro. The story of the Little Mermaid, like Doro goes-that she looked for love from the wrong man. Hans becomes popular with the people of Copenhagen and his gift in telling stories to the children. So Andersen's fame grew out of his plays and stories. Some of the musical scores that stand out are the most known of Andersen's best loved works. Those most memorable numbers are from 'Inchworm,' 'Thumbelina' and 'The Ugly Duckling.' Hans later finds that the ballerina truly loves her husband, so Hans returns home to his village of Odense. There he tells his stories to the children who loves to hear his fairy tales. You may not find Kaye's usual comic flair here. He extends his more poignant side of the famous storyteller. This was Kaye's final film of his career beofre embarking on his life's love of working with Unicef. If you like to read about Andersen, he wrote his auto-bio, 'The Fairy Tale of My Life.' The film itself is a delightful children's story that the whole family can love."
Delicious performer, wonderful introduction to ballet!
Marion Capriotti | New York, NY USA | 12/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I fell hopelessly in love with Danny Kaye when I was 8 years old, and I'm still crazy about him many years later. . . no other performer of whom I'm aware has ever shown his unique combination of comic virtuousity, tenderness, silliness, physical bravado and dramatic depth.
He could also really sing, not just comically but straightforwardly, in his naturally rich, sweet lyric-tenor voice. If you really listen to the "Inchworm" song, you will hear just how fine his voice really was.
The ballet sequences in the movie transfixed me as an eight-year-old ballerina wannabe. Maybe they look hokey to present-day grownups, but I bet most kids would immediately understand.