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Whoever reviewed this film for Maltin's Guide (I wish they'd indicate who the reviewer is by initials or something. It'd make the book more useful) does not share my tastes. I personally don't care that it bears no relation to Andersen's life. They admit it up front. Judge a film by itself, not on it's supposed relation to reality! Given Andersen's real life and his moody, pessemistic nature, I doubt being more accurate would have been a good thing. The score is beautiful, the sets and Costumes are great and Danny Kaye was wonderful! I haven't seen the movie for a couple of years and I stll remember most of the score! Granted, it's not one of the all-time greats, but it's better than the Maltin review implies. A worthy effort. Recommended.
Every single biopic of a creative artist tells the same story, whether it's
true or not: the Philistine World, or some part thereof, rejects the
and fails to see his greatness; but later on, perhaps during his lifetime,
perhaps not, it sees the error of its ways. That happens here. Hans
Christian Andersen is a village cobbler whose compulsive inventiveness is
little thought of until he makes good in Copenhagen, after which...
But there's much more going on.
There's no doubt that Andersen was a great artist, in some sense. `The Ugly Duckling' and `The Emperor's New Clothes' are two of the greatest short stories - fables, folktales - all of these - ever composed. But he had his limitations. There were many kinds of stories he just couldn't write. His fertile talent for anthropomorphising was often a millstone. In many respects he seems to have been a childish and naive man. But get this: all of these limitations make it onto the screen. Both the story and Danny Kaye's performance (a great performance) make Andersen into a human being who is NOT the greatest storyteller since Shakespeare, but who can be admired for what he is.
The main story isn't the `unrecognised genius' bit: it's a story of unrequited love. While in Copenhagen Andersen spends most of his time banging his head against the wall over an unattainable ballerina, whose interest in him is, as they say, purely professional. He manages to be quite cruel to a close friend in the process, right up to the point where it's unclear that a reconciliation is possible. (Indeed, it's unclear whether or not one occurs.) When he realises what a fool he's been he just trudges back, defeated, to his village. And it's here we have the obligatory scene where the villagers realise how great he was after all, mainly by singing the highly memorable refrains of the movie's songs, one after the other. Well, the film needed some ending. I'm inclined to forgive this one.
There's also a lengthy Little Mermaid ballet - seven minutes long? more? - danced in its entirety. (We see a LOT of the ballerina's craft in Copenhagen.) This sort of thing wasn't too unusual in the 1950s but it's a genuine gamble in context - and one that I think pays off. By the time the ballet appears the cheery story of an eccentric village storyteller had become surprisingly dark. Vidor, it seems, would rather risk having people leave the cinema than insult those who remain. Good for him. I can't claim that this film works in every respect, and perhaps you won't like it, but I'm sure you won't feel cheated by it.
This was the movie that caused me to fall in love with Danny Kaye. I still love watching this movie more than 20 years after I saw it for the first time on television. I love his gentle nature with the children, in particular the little girl he sings "Thumbalina" to. Fabricated or not, this is one of his best films showing the true diversity of an incredibly talented man. Danny Kaye was surely one of the last of a dying Hollywood breed.
Watching this again (for only the second time) last night, I was just
knocked out by the score. Presumably because of a
bias, the piece tends to be dismissed in the Loesser oeuvre but every
number is a gem -- and the fullest score for a "family fantasy" since THE
WIZARD OF OZ. I was particularly taken by INCH WORM, a really short
sung in counterpoint to the children's chanting of their mathematic tables
after the schoolmaster has dragged them away from Hans' tales. Not long
enough to have a commercial future (outside of a soundtrack album) it
us more about Hans than most of the scene that precedes
As others have noted, Danny Kaye is totally bearable and the kitsch side of the film is now enjoyable for that. (The colours also recall WIZARD.)
This film deserves more recognition in the world of original film musicals. It's a rare classic score at the time of composer compilations or Broadway imports.
You could describe this as a childrens film but it's rather more of a
family/young at heart type of story. These days it just doesn't really
appeal to the age range that flocked to see it when it was released back in
1952, but if you have a good understanding of fables and fairy stories you
will appreciate this little gem.
First off it clearly states at the beginning of the film it's not a
biography of Anderson but rather just a made up story, much in the style
Anderson would have wrote himself.
Hans was very much one of those village idiots/dreamers in his native
Denmark and here he is portrayed as the childish adult who lets kids skive
off school and teach them stories and songs which actually have a lot more
impact on children than just sitting in a classroom reading books. And he's
right, all of the stories he wrote had morals. However the stern mature
townsfolk don't see things his way and go about throwing the guy out of
their precious village to stop him corrupting the young minds with these
Hans and his good friend young Peter take a trip to Copanhagen (or
Copen-ha-gen as they seem to like calling) and there we see the masters
inspiration and imagination go wild. He falls for a beautiful French
ballerina, who he suspects her husband is beating her, a very adult topic
delve into, he gets into trouble with the law and ends up doing freelance
work for the Ballerina - fixing her shoes. he reads all the signals wrong
and falls for her unaware that for him fact and fantasy are
Peter seems to be the more mature of the two and eventually gets tired of
warning Hans about building his hopes and getting obsessed about things he
can never have.
Skip to the end...
Han's realises that there is more to life than day-dreams and clocks and
flowers and returns to his village, slightly deflated but more wordly wiser
and lives happily ever after.
There's a very good moral to the story but it's one you can't really explain, you have to watch it and see for yourself. Your dreams are china in your hands. Danny Kaye is fabulous as Hans he always brings with him that symapathetic, boish quality and the ballet sequences are stunning for their time. The characters are basic but are very important to the way the film evolves. Inaccurate and very outdated but beautifully told and well acted.
A lot of the comments previously made here are true and this certainly
isn't any kind of real biographical film of Hans Christian Anderson.
But one must remember that Samuel Goldwyn was primarily making this
film as children's entertainment. And on that level he succeeded
In fact at the age of 5 in the cinema in Brooklyn this was the first movie on the big screen I ever remember seeing. My father was a big Danny Kaye fan so the whole family went to see it. And of course one of the first long-playing records we had in our house was the soundtrack to that film.
Another reviewer said that Frank Loesser's score was the highlight for him in the film. I don't think Danny Kaye ever had better material to sing with on the screen. Up to this point he got by with stuff especially written for him by his wife Sylvia Fine. He proved here in Hans Christian Anderson that he could definitely succeed without it.
Anyway when I view this film I'm five years old again. You will be too if you see it.
So the opening written words say to us the very thing that many across
the site have failed to spot, namely they wasn't going for
autobiographical, just a celebration of the name and his work.
Who better to bring the great Dane to the screen than Danny Kaye, his ebullient approach to the topic befits the glorious color that sparkles in each frame. The story tracks the Cobbler Andersen as he leaves his hometown of Odense to seek a new life in the beautiful city of Copenhagen. It is here that he becomes known for his stories that bring much joy to the children of Denmark and here that he writes his glorious Ballet version of The Little Mermaid. He gets into scrapes, he falls for a pretty girl, and most of all he discovers his vocation in life, this is indeed a delightful fairytale.
Sit back and enjoy The Emperor's New Clothes, Wonderful Copenhagen, Thumberlina and The Ugly Duckling, and then pray silence for the 15 minute showing of The Little Mermaid, smashingly buoyant film that may come wrapped up in treacle for some, but hey I got a sweet tooth and it works for me. 8/10
A fictional account of the life of storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. First, if you haven't read his stories, then you probably won't appreciate this movie as much as you should. It's a perfect excuse to read them with your family, then watch the movie. Second, if you're expecting a sophisticated, adult-oriented story, you will be disappointed; however, the morals to Hans' stories, as well as the movie's lessons, are very worthy. That said, the musical numbers are an absolute delight -- Danny Kaye never fails to deliver a wonderful performance, and where else can you learn to sing stories, instead of tell them, for your children? -- and the ballets are great for this venue. We even get to see the movie's choreographer dance in one of the numbers. This movie was nominated for several Oscars. It deserved those nominations. Don't skip this one, especially if you have small children.
This rather sophisticated musical appears to have been inspired by the visionary and dreamy Powell/Pressburger classic THE RED SHOES. It's as much a stylized romance as it is a kiddie picture, with Kaye refraining from indulging in the manic twittering he's generally known for, and becoming a rather poignant protagonist. That's not to say the whole family can't get something out of it, but the script makes no small point of creating sexual tension within it's romantic framework. Goldwyn wanted to make this picture for years, but couldn't find a script to satisfy him. Moss Hart finally came up with this one, and it's a surprisingly multi-dimensional one. Frank Loesser's music and lyrics are wonderful.
I grew up watching old Danny Kaye movies. When I found this one, I
In the age of violence on TV, etc. I would sit with my girls and watch Hans and Peter leave their home and travel to Copenhagen and have wonderful adventures.
Despite the other comment, both of my daughters sat riveted to the screen during the ballet sequences. They loved the beauty and elegance.
But most of all, we all loved Danny. Hans was a character we quoted to each other on a regular basis. He said a few things that we still say. "That's what's nice about the world - people!" He reminds us that sex and violence don't need to be in entertainment in order to be enjoyable.
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