Directed by Charles Vidor

Starring Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi Jeanmaire

* Published specifically for The Danny Kaye Blogathon, written by my son, Léonce. *


Movies come in all shapes and sizes, everyone has their own preferences and it is always interesting to witness different people share their opinion which in turn helps us structure our own opinion on the latter. As a 17-year-old, I’m confronted with the hardships of a highschooler, struggling with grades and trying to figure where I’m supposed to go next year once I finish my last year. Nonetheless this hasn’t impacted my love for classic and modern movies, something I love sharing with my Mom. When she talked about hosting a Danny Kaye blogathon and asked if I could write a review on Hans Christian Andersen, I was more then willing to oblige.

Danny Kaye has always been a favorite of mine, his cheery, charismatic, and hilarious personality just makes the movies he stars in so entertaining! I never find myself bored whenever he is on screen and his singing always contributes to the splendidness of his character. I’ve personally watched Hans Christian Andersen several times, each time make has made me love the story more and more and has helped me take the time to savor every song the movie has to offer, my favorite being “The Ugly Duckling”. Of course, I am familiar with the historical character Hans Christian Andersen and his many successful stories, which have been adapted as cartoons and movies, this had me question the accuracy of the plot of the movie with his biography. This was quickly answered however when the opening credits of the movie rolled when I first watched the movie: “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 this great spinner of fairy tales.”

The movie is beautifully shot, with vibrant colors and stunning sets that transport the audience to the fairy-tale world that Andersen created. The musical numbers are catchy and memorable, and the songs, written by Frank Loesser, add to the movie’s whimsical tone. In my opinion, the simplicity of the story and it’s many wholesome and funny scenes contribute to the movie’s success. Andersen isn’t depicted as an unrecognized genius on the levels of Shakespeare, Molière or even Perrault, he is just a simple cobbler in his village who uses his vivid imagination in order to entertain children. He can only be admired for who he is. This is why Danny Kaye’s performance is so great, he was able to act out Andersen’s childish, naïve, and reckless personality which is the main reason why he gets into trouble with the schoolmaster who implores his departure to the Burgomaster. Alongside his apprentice Peter, Andersen sets off to the dazzling capital of Denmark: Copenhagen, where he manages to get himself in trouble once again which lends him in jail because he disrespected the statue of the King (although all he was doing was promote his business with his magnificent singing). However, he soon resumes his adventures, starting off with making the perfect ballerina slippers for a rather demanding Niels (portrayed by Farley Granger) whose anger management issues don’t really help him answer to his wife’s demand Doro (portrayed by Zizi Jeanmaire) with whom our favorite cobbler falls head over heels with. This unrequited love helps him find the inspiration to write to write one of his most iconic stories yet: “The Little Mermaid”. His mesmorization of her is portrayed later on by a 3-minute-long musical sequence that is supposed to show Andersen daydreaming, imagining himself marrying the beautiful ballerina. This newfound love for the ballerina however drives a gap to be formed in the friendship between Peter and Andersen, with the two slowly drifting apart, which makes it seem like a reconciliation is almost impossible.

Now comes the wonderful 7-minute-long ballet towards the end of the film, which is I have to say the adds the cherry on top of the cake. The choreography is sublime, down to the smallest detail. It conveyed the original story of the Little Mermaid and gives a slight dark twist to a cheery story of a village storyteller. This kind of art is something I barely see in movies today sadly. But I assure you, this movie has a good ending. After the ballet, Andersen realizes how foolish he was and decides that the best course of action now is to go back to his regular routine as a cobbler and stop making stories. This changes however after he reconciles with old Pete, with Andersen regretting the way he treated him and wanting things to go as they were. Their reconciliation goes to show how well they get along and the respect they hold for each other. Andersen decides to publish his stories and to have them printed so that everyone can enjoy them. The movie ends with the townspeople gathering around him to hear him sing his stories, seemingly accepting him and realizes how great he is. I know that the ending is pretty cliché but it’s still heartwarming, nonetheless and brings a closure to this masterpiece.

Overall, the film explores Andersen’s struggles as a writer and his desire to be accepted by people around him. It also touches on the themes of love, friendship, and imagination that are prevalent in Andersen’s stories. Hans Christian Andersen is a delightful musical that celebrates the life and work of one of the greatest storytellers of all time. It’s a feel-good movie that will leave you humming its tunes long after the credits roll. Danny Kaye brings his trademark charm and energy to the role, and his singing and dancing are always a joy to watch! This is the first time I’m writing a review so I hope you enjoyed it! I want to finish it off with parts of the lyrics for “I’m Hans Christian Andersen” which, in my opinion, highlight the character’s personality and Kaye’s magnificent performance:

I’m Hans Christian Andersen,
I’ve many a tale to tell
And though I’m a cobbler,
I’d say I tell them rather well

I’ll mend your shoes and I’ll fix your boots
When I have a moment free
When I’m not otherwise occupied
As a purple duck, or a mountainside,
Or a quarter after three
I’m Hans Christian Andersen,
Andersen, that’s me!

I’m Hans Christian Andersen,
And this is an April day
It’s full of the magic I need
To speed me my way
My pocketbook has an empty look
I limp on a lumpy shoe
Or if I wish I am a flying fish,
Or a millionaire with a rocking chair,
And a dumpling in my stew
I’m Hans Christian Andersen,
Andersen, that’s who!