Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi Jeanmaire, Joseph Walsh, Philip Tonge
Director: Charles Vidor
Release Date: 25 November 1952
Length: 110 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
“Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales.” Danny Kaye stars as famed storyteller Hans Christian Andersen in this charming fictionalized biopic that blends music, romance, comedy and fantasy to trace the life of Denmark’s literary hero; a small-town shoemaker with a knack for spinning yarns.” — Netflix.com
I love Danny Kaye. He is so funny and so charming in his movies that it is impossible not to fall in love with him and his characters on screen. I can remember watching Hans Christian Andersen as a little girl and laughing at the songs and being spellbound by the ballets. This movie is an old-fashioned musical that creates a new fairy tale about Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote so many of the fairy tales we know and love today. “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Thumbelina” and “The Ugly Duckling” all have enchanting songs that help tell the story in this movie. Everyone will be sure to laugh at the king who finds himself “in the altogether” and find their self-esteem boosted as they sing the song about the Ugly Duckling. “The Little Mermaid” is turned into a ballet and is shown in a fairly long sequence towards the end as one ofHans Christian Andersen’s most popular stories. There are a few new stories created for this movie that are shared with us in pieces including a clock whose two hands were in love with the third and a chalk and chalkboard arguing about who was most important. Alas, these stories were not fully written so we still don’t know what happened!
The movie is filmed in a kind of fairy-tale world. Some of the colors are ultra-bright and all of the sets are a bit fantastical. The costumes are quite lovely and the dancers show quite a few numbers with multiple costumes. Naturally, everyone breaks into song and dance on a whim and you can be sure that an ensemble number is right around the corner! The music is lovely and the acting is quite good, but there were some aspects of the plot that I did not care for. The ballerina (Zizi Jeanmaire) and her husband, (Farley Granger), are a gorgeous artistic couple. She is the prima ballerina and he is the choreographer and ballet master. Sparks fly on and off the stage. The couple is clearly in love, but they also fight all the time. This includes physical slapping, pushing, and violent verbal arguments, which always jolted me out of the fairy-tale quality of the story. I also felt sorry for Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye) who fell in love with the ballerina and was naive enough to think that she returned his love. Poor Peter (Joseph Walsh) did his best to help Hans see the world as it really was, but Hans really did live in a world of his own.
Though this movie is old, it has retained much of its charm and still looks and sounds great. Even though I have seen it multiple times, I still cannot help but laugh with the children as Hans tells his tales, sway along with “Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen” (you can hear this song on the video above) and get swept up in the imaginary romance between Hans and the ballerina. If you enjoy musicals, be sure not to miss out on Hans Christian Andersen!
This movie shows some scenes of physical and emotional abuse between spouses. They slap each other and call each other names, push and shove each other around, etc. It is portrayed as part of a feisty, artistic temperament, but can be disturbing for some viewers as no one in the movie acts like it is wrong. Other than that, the movie is clean and appropriate for viewers of all ages. Recommended for ages 5 and up.