Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye
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 story teller. 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 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 story teller, who tends to live somewhat with his head in the clouds, telling the children stories when they should be in school. Soon enough, the school master 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, and begins fantasizing about his rescuing her, her falling in love with Hans, and their eventual marriage. The dream sequences break the audience’s heart, and 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, leading to a sad moment where he tries to break up his friendship with Peter, who tries to warn 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.
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
Funny movie quotes from Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): You’d be surprised how many kings are only a queen with a mustache.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): Stop shaking your head at me, Peter. I can feel it in the back of my head.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): Did you ever hear the story of the old woman who shook her head at the family so much that one night it fell off? Right on the dinner table.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): You know, I never saw such a worrier as you, Peter. You want to worry? I’ll give you something to worry about. Two years ago I took you out of that orphanage and promised them I’d make you into a good cobbler. Two whole years! Look at that shoe. Glue’s all smeared, the nails go in crooked. Two years an apprentice and still the nails go in crooked.
Peter (Joseph Walsh): I’m not as bad as all that, am I? You’re not going to send me back, are you?
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): Ah! A new worry appears in the sky.
[about Hans’s stories]
Gerta’s Father, Farmer: The other day I asked my Gerta what time it was and she said that the minute hand and the hour hand weren’t speaking to each other. They were both in love with the second hand. And they wouldn’t make up until they met at twelve o’clock. And no one could tell the time until then.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): You know I like to think that shoes have a mind of their own. The ones that squeak don’t want to leave the shop, and the ones that don’t fit don’t like the person that’s wearing them.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): [talking to dog] That’s the nice thing about the world, my friend: People.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): No one’s ever really alone.
[working on a beautiful ballerina’s shoes]
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye): She wants shoes that can walk on air, Peter; this afternoon. I almost wish she’d asked me for something really impossible.
Niels (Farley Granger): You dance the waltz like an elephant in a snowdrift! No, like an elephant that’s fallen and trying to get up!
Otto (Philip Tonge): Never interfere between a husband and wife, my boy. Best rule I ever heard of.
Peter (Joseph Walsh): What funny people they are over there. First they laugh and kiss, then they scream and beat each other. Kind of crazy.