Musical Monday: Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

Hans_Christian_Andersen_FilmPosterThis week’s musical:
Hans Christian Andersen” –Musical #46

Samuel Goldwyn Productions

Charles Vidor

Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi Jeanmaire

A fictitious telling of the life of Hans Christian Andersen. The film was not meant to be a biography of Andersen’s life but a “fairy tale about this great spinner of fairy tales,” said producer Samuel Goldwyn.
Hans Christian Andersen (Kaye) is shoe cobbler and journeys to Copenhagen. He becomes a cobbler and tells stories such as Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling and the Emperor’s New Clothes to the local children. With his stories he also become a famous writer. Andersen does work as a cobbler for a temperamental ballerina (Jeanmaire) named Doro and falls in love, not realizing she is married to Niels (Granger). Andersen confesses his secret love by writing the ballet “The Little Mermaid” for Doro. After Doro tells Hans that she is married, he returns home to Odense.


Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Anderson tells stories to village children.

Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Andersen tells stories to village children.

-Goldwyn had writers working on a “Hans Christian Andersen” musical in 1938, but the time was never right to produce it. Before starting, according to the A. Scott Berg biography “Goldwyn.”
-Farley Granger thought the film was ridiculous and said it was beginning to be a joke around town, “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets boy,” he said, according to the “Goldwyn” biography.
-“Hans Christian Andersen” cost $4 million to make, according to “Goldwyn.”
-Danes did not appreciate the depiction of Hans Christian Andersen and Andersen scholars said Kaye looked nothing like Andersen, according to “Goldwyn.”
-“Hans Christian Andersen” is the second highest grossing Goldwyn picture behind “The Best Years of Our Lives,” according to “Goldwyn.”
-Actress and ballerina Moira Shearer was supposed to play the role of Doro couldn’t because she was pregnant.
-Samuel Goldwyn originally wanted animated
-Zizi Jeanmaire dances with Roland Petit in the Little Mermaid ballet sequence. The two were married in 1954 and remained married until Petit’s death in 2011.
-The film opened the week of Thanksgiving in 1952. It was first aired on television in 1966.
-Actress Barie Chase has an uncredited role has a ballerina.
-The soundtrack released after the film includes Jane Wyman singing the female songs with Danny Kaye.

-There are two notable dream sequences in the film:
1. Hans falls in love with Doro the ballet dancer has a colorful dream sequence of the couple singing “No Two People.”

2. Andersen gets locked in a closet and can not see the performance of “The Little Mermaid.” As he’s locked in the closet, he imagines how it is performed. The imagined performance is the one he audience sees.

Zizi Jeanmaire as Doro performs the ballet of "The Little Mermaid" in "Hans Christian Anderson" with dancer (and future husband) Roland Petit

Zizi Jeanmaire as Doro performs the ballet of “The Little Mermaid” in “Hans Christian Andersen” with dancer (and future husband) Roland Petit

Notable Songs:
It’s hard to pick a favorite song from “Hans Christian Andersen” because there are so many lovely songs that are all very catchy:
-“Wonderful Copenhagen” sung by Danny Kaye, Joseph Walsh and sailors (a personal favorite of mine)

-“No Two People” sung by Danny Kaye and Zizi Jeanmaire (but Jane Wyman on the commercial soundtrack release)
-“Thumbelina” sung by Danny Kaye
-“The King’s New Clothes” sung by Danny Kaye
-“Ugly Duckling” sung by Danny Kaye
-“Inchworm” sung by Danny Kaye (another personal favorite)

My review:
I can’t deny that the premise of this film is a little silly. The film and main character named after a real historical figure but purposefully and admittedly has nothing to do with his life?
But I also can’t deny that I love this movie. It’s so light-hearted, happy and lovely.
It’s an interesting change of role for Danny Kaye. In films like “Up in Arms” (1944), “Wonder Man” (1945) and “The Kid from Brooklyn” (1946)- Kaye’s characters sang the fast talking songs (written by his wife Sylvia Fine) and played ridiculous zany characters. But Hans Christian Andersen allows Kaye to demonstrate his true vocal talents and play a calm, caring character. Kaye was interested in the film before even seeing the script, and I think it was a wise decision on his point.
I can see why Farley Granger didn’t like this film, because he does look rather ridiculous in his period costume and is an unsympathetic character. I’ll admit, his talent was wasted on this movie. It’s such a small role, you wonder why he was picked.
But that aside, “Hans Christian Andersen” is a film that simply makes me happy.
I love the music, I love the color and I love Danny Kaye.

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4 thoughts on “Musical Monday: Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

    • I actually should give you credit for posting that Danny Kaye musical link the other day 🙂 It made me want to watch this one and highlight it!
      So thank YOU!


  1. Why does it matter if the film is anything resembling Andersen’s life? I think Goldwyn’s right– it’s better to get across the idea of a person’s life than a fidelity to details that can be garnered from a Wikipedia article. The movie does a better job of engaging the imagination and giving you the essence of who Andersen was and what he meant through the songs (I imagine he did less singing and dancing in real life). I usually find biographies like this– such as the great 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould– much more engaging.

    Also, you didn’t finish your comment about Goldwyn wanting animation. Don’t tell me Tom and Jerry were supposed to be in this too!


    • Personally it doesn’t matter to me, but it is interesting. Especially when so many false biopics were passed as fact he went on and said “Hey this is fictional and fun!” From my research, it sounded like Anderson’s real life was just too darn depressing. But the Danes weren’t too happy that it wasn’t all fact lol.
      Unfortunately, I couldn’t find what kind of animation he had in mind. Possibly rather than dream sequences animated cartoons? Or little cartoons to go along with the songs? That’s all I could speculate.
      Thanks for reading!


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