Hans Christian Andersen (film)

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Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Vidor
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Written by Moss Hart
Story by Myles Connolly
Starring Danny Kaye
Farley Granger
Zizi Jeanmaire
Music by Walter Scharf
Frank Loesser
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date
  • November 25, 1952 (1952-11-25)(Premiere-New York City) [1]
  • December 19, 1952 (1952-12-19)(US) [1]
Running time
120 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million [1]
Box office$6 million (US and Canada rentals) [2]

Hans Christian Andersen is a 1952 Hollywood musical film directed by Charles Vidor, with lyrics and music by Frank Loesser. The story was by Myles Connolly, the screenplay was written by Moss Hart and Ben Hecht (uncredited), and Samuel Goldwyn Productions were the producers. It stars Danny Kaye.


The film was inspired by the life of 19th-century Danish poet and scholar Hans Christian Andersen, who wrote many world-famous fairy tales. But the story is romantic fiction, not a biography. The introduction describes it as "not the story of his life, but a fairy tale about this great spinner of fairy tales." Kaye, in the title role, portrays Andersen as a small-town cobbler with a childlike heart and a vivid imagination.

A large part of the narrative is told through song and ballet and includes many of the real Andersen's most famous stories, such as The Ugly Duckling , Thumbelina , The Emperor's New Clothes and The Little Mermaid . The film was an international success at the time of its release.


In the 1830s, in the small Danish town of Odense, cobbler Hans Christian Andersen spends his day spinning fairy tales for the village children, teaching them lessons about pride, humility, love and growing up through his fanciful characters. One day, the stern schoolmaster, who believes Hans is wasting his pupils' precious time, implores the Burgomaster and councilmen to curtail the cobbler's habit of distracting the students with his storytelling, but even the adult citizens easily become a rapt audience for Hans' fables. Hans finally agrees to stop distracting the children and returns to his shop, where his teenage assistant, the orphan Peter, begs him to stop causing trouble.

However, later Hans is drawn back to the schoolhouse to see the children. As he hears the children drone mathematical phrases, he compares an inchworm's myopic measuring of beautiful blossoms to the schoolmaster's blindness to beauty and creativity. Next day when the children do not arrive at school bell sounds, the schoolmaster deduces that Hans is again distracting his pupils. When the schoolmaster then demands that the Burgomaster and the councilmen choose between him and the cobbler, they decide that Hans must leave Odense. Peter, who has witnessed the verdict, returns to the shop and secretly tries to save his friend from the shame of being exiled by eagerly suggesting Hans travel to Copenhagen. After much prodding, Peter succeeds in convincing Hans to leave that afternoon by reminding him that he will be the envy of the town for having been the first to visit the famous city. Soon after Hans begins his journey, Peter joins him on the trail, bringing all the shop's tools to start their business anew.

After a sea voyage, the pair arrive at the city's harbor and find their way to the Great Square of Copenhagen, which is filled with vendors selling flowers, pots and pans and fresh foods. When Hans sets up shop and introduces himself to the crowd while standing on a statue of the king, police arrest him for defaming the image of their leader. Peter, who has sought refuge from the police by hiding by the back entrance of the Royal Theatre, overhears choreographer Niels demand that a company producer send for a cobbler and asks them to free his friend, a cobbler, from jail.

Meanwhile, Hans sees a lonely young girl outside his jail cell window and offers to introduce her to his companion. By drawing on his thumb, Hans creates a puppet he calls "Thumbelina" and brings a smile to the girl's face. Soon Hans is bailed out of jail by the theater company and taken to the theater where he becomes entranced by the beauty and talent of a Royal Danish Ballet dress rehearsal. When Niels ridicules lead ballerina Doro's performance, she in turn complains that her shoes need adjusting.

Doro gives the slippers to Hans, who is immediately smitten with the ballerina. After Hans leaves, Peter learns that Niels and Doro are a happily married couple, despite their theatrical quarrels. When Hans returns, Niels is equating his wife's performance with an "elephant in the snow drift," prompting Doro to break into tears. After learning that the couple is married, Hans fantasizes that he can save Doro from her horrible fate with "the cruel" Niels.

Later, when Peter explains that the couple is actually in love, Hans resists the idea and writes a love letter to Doro in the form of a fable called "The Little Mermaid," in which he tells her that she has chosen the wrong man. That night while Peter surreptitiously reads the letter, a gust of wind whisks it from his hands and carries it into the theater through an open window, where a stage doorman finds it and delivers it to Doro. The next morning, Peter tells Hans that Doro has the letter, but Hans is unconcerned, believing that Doro's possession of the letter is a good omen. The next day, the entire ballet company sets off on their annual tour, leaving Hans bereft, but he soon finds comfort entertaining a new group of children with his stories. One day, Lars, a sad boy with a shaved head, remains behind after the other children tease him. Hans tells him the story of an ugly duckling who is ostracized by his peers until the ice melts at winter's end, and he sees his reflection in the lake and finds he has become a handsome swan. When not with the children, Hans counts the days by making pair after pair of brightly colored satin slippers for his absent ballerina and dreaming of her love.

One day, Hans receives an invitation from the Gazette newspaper office, where Lars's father, the publisher, thanks Hans for helping his son overcome his difficulties and offers to publish "The Ugly Duckling" in the newspaper. Overjoyed by the news, Hans asks that his credit be changed from "Hans, the cobbler" to "Hans Christian Andersen" and runs down the street singing his full name with pride.

That evening, when the ballet company returns, Doro tells Hans that they have created a ballet based on his story "The Little Mermaid," which Hans believes is a sign of her love for him. The next evening, Peter tells Hans about the councilmen's verdict and warns Hans that Doro will humiliate him as well. Disappointed by his friend's attitude, Hans suggests that they part ways and leaves for the opening of the new ballet. When Hans tries to deliver Doro's slippers backstage, Niels locks the insistent writer in a closet to prevent him from disrupting the performers. While Hans listens to the music and dreams of his story, the performance opens on stage. In the ballet, mermaids float in the ocean, while a ship carrying a handsome prince sinks to the mermaids' garden at the bottom of the sea. The littlest mermaid helps the unconscious man to the surface, saving his life. Having fallen in love with the prince, she seeks the help of the sea witches, who transform the mermaid into a woman, so she might find the prince on land. She arrives at the palace during a masquerade ball and dances with the prince, but his attentions are for another. Heartbroken, the mermaid returns to the sea.

The morning after the ballet, Doro sends for Hans and discovers that he is in love with her and has misunderstood her relationship with Niels. Niels inadvertently interrupts their conversation and insults Hans by offering to pay him for "The Little Mermaid." To save face, Hans refuses Niels's offer and claims that his writing was a fluke. Doro knowingly accepts the slippers Hans made for her and graciously allows him to leave. On the road to Odense, Hans meets Peter and renews their friendship. Upon reaching town, Hans is greeted as a celebrity and regales the citizens, including the schoolmaster, with his now famous moral tales.



Producer Samuel Goldwyn conceived the idea for the film in 1936 and employed numerous writers to work on early drafts of the screenplay over the years. In 1941 he was reportedly in discussions with Walt Disney Studios to produce the film, but the deal fell through. [1]

The film was eventually produced in the spring of 1952. [1] Danish authorities were not consulted on the film and there were complaints from Denmark that the film was a fairy tale rather than the true story of Andersen's life [3] and the Danish Foreign Office considered making a formal protest against the film. [1]


(All songs have words and music by Frank Loesser).

A studio cast recording of the film's songs was released by Decca, with Danny Kaye, Jane Wyman, and a backup chorus singing the songs. The album also included two Sylvia Fine originals made specifically for the album, "Uncle Pockets" and "There's a Hole at the Bottom of the Sea", and Danny Kaye's narration of two Tubby the Tuba stories by Paul Tripp. The songs were originally released as a series of four 78 rpm singles, with two songs per disk, [4] a 45 rpm album, [5] and a 10" LP. [6]


The film premiered in New York City on November 25, 1952, opening at the Paris Theatre and at the Criterion Theatre, and went on general release in both the United States and United Kingdom on December 19, 1952. [1] [7]

In its first 6 days of release at two theaters, it grossed $80,000. [8] It was one of the top ten grossing films of the year in the United States and Canada with rentals of $6 million. [2]

The film opened in Copenhagen on September 6, 1953 [1] and received mixed critical response but in its first week of release at the Palads Teatret it played to full capacity earning 74,000 Danish krone. [3] It was not well received in Andersen's home town of Odense. [1]

Awards and honors

This film was nominated for six Academy Awards: [1] [9] [10] Best Color Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Set Decoration (Color), Best Costume Design (Color), Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Walter Scharf), Best Song (Thumbelina), and Best Sound Recording.

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

First telecast

The film was first telecast by ABC-TV in 1966. In an odd reversal of the situation for the early CBS telecasts of The Wizard of Oz , this time a host was needed because the film was too long for a two-hour time slot, rather than too short. It runs exactly two hours without commercials, and ABC did not wish to cut it, so they presented it as a family special with Victor Borge as host, and padded the telecast out to two-and-a-half hours. Borge was selected because, like the real Hans Christian Andersen, he was Danish. [13]

Related Research Articles

Hans Christian Andersen Danish author, fairy tale writer, and poet

Hans Christian Andersen, in Denmark usually called H.C. Andersen, was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales.

The Emperors New Clothes Fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is a literary folktale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about a vain emperor who gets exposed before his subjects. The tale has been translated into over 100 languages.

The Ugly Duckling Fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen

"The Ugly Duckling" is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). It was first published on 11 November 1843 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection, with three other tales by Andersen in Copenhagen, Denmark to great critical acclaim. The tale has been adapted to various media including opera, musical, and animated film. The tale is an original story by Andersen.

The Little Mermaid fairy tale

"The Little Mermaid" is a Danish literary fairy tale written by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. The story follows the journey of a young mermaid who is willing to give up her life in the sea as a mermaid to gain a human soul. The tale was first published in 1837 as part of a collection of fairy tales for children. The original story has been a subject of multiple analyses by scholars such as Jacob Bøggild and Pernille Heegaard as well as the folklorist Maria Tatar. These analyses cover various aspects of the story from interpreting the themes to discussing why Andersen chose to write a tragic story with a happy ending. It has been adapted to various media, including musical theatre, anime, ballet, opera, and film. There is also a statue portraying the mermaid in Copenhagen, Denmark, where the story was written and first published.

"The Steadfast Tin Soldier" is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a tin soldier's love for a paper ballerina. The tale was first published in Copenhagen by C.A. Reitzel on 2 October 1838 in the first booklet of Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection. The booklet consists of Andersen's "The Daisy" and "The Wild Swans". The tale was Andersen's first not based upon a folk tale or a literary model. "The Steadfast Tin Soldier" has been adapted to various media including ballet and animated film.

<i>The Shadow</i> (fairy tale)

The Shadow is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen. The tale was first published in 1847.


Thumbelina is a literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen first published by C. A. Reitzel on 16 December 1835 in Copenhagen, Denmark, with "The Naughty Boy" and "The Travelling Companion" in the second instalment of Fairy Tales Told for Children. Thumbelina is about a tiny girl and her adventures with marriage-minded toads, moles, and cockchafers. She successfully avoids their intentions before falling in love with a flower-fairy prince just her size.

The Nightingale (fairy tale)

"The Nightingale" is a literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen about an emperor who prefers the tinkling of a bejeweled mechanical bird to the song of a real nightingale. When the Emperor is near death, the nightingale's song restores his health. Well received upon its publication in Copenhagen in 1843 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. First Collection, the tale is believed to have been inspired by the author's unrequited love for opera singer Jenny Lind, the "Swedish nightingale". The story has been adapted to opera, ballet, musical play, television drama and animated film.

The Red Shoes (fairy tale)

"The Red Shoes" is a literary fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen first published by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen 7 April 1845 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Third Collection. Other tales in the volume include "The Elf Mound" (Elverhøi), "The Jumpers" (Springfyrene), "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", and "Holger Danske".

<i>The Flying Trunk</i>

"The Flying Trunk" is a literary fairy tale by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a young man who has a flying trunk that carries him to Turkey where he visits the Sultan's daughter. The tale was first published 1839.

"The Fir-Tree" is a literary fairy tale by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875). The tale is about a fir tree so anxious to grow up, so anxious for greater things, that he cannot appreciate living in the moment. The tale was first published 21 December 1844 with "The Snow Queen", in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Second Collection, in Copenhagen, Denmark, by C.A. Reitzel. One scholar indicates that "The Fir-Tree" was the first of Andersen's fairy tales to express a deep pessimism.

<i>The Daydreamer</i> (film) 1966 film by Jules Bass

The Daydreamer is a 1966 stop motion animated–live action musical fantasy film produced by Videocraft International. Directed by Jules Bass, it was written by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Romeo Muller, based on the stories of Hans Christian Andersen. It features seven original songs by Jules Bass and Maury Laws. The film's opening features the cast in puppet and live form plus caricatures of the cast by Al Hirschfeld. Among the cast were the American actors Paul O'Keefe, Jack Gilford, Ray Bolger and Margaret Hamilton, and the Australian actor Cyril Ritchard as the voice of the Sandman. Three of the voice actors: Burl Ives, and Canadian actors Billie Mae Richards and Larry D. Mann, were the voice suppliers for Videocraft's stop motion Christmas television special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Some of the character voices were recorded at RCA Studios in Toronto, Ontario, under Bernard Cowan's supervision. The "Animagic" puppet sequences were staged by Don Duga at Videocraft in New York, and supervised by Tadahito Mochinaga at MOM Production in Tokyo, Japan.

Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale is a 2003 semi-biographical television miniseries that fictionalizes the young life of Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was directed by Philip Saville and starred Kieran Bew as the title character. Various Hans Christian Andersen fairytales are included as short interludes of the story, and intertwined into the events of the young author's life.

The Fairytaler (1998-2003) is a 1998 Danish animated television series based on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.

<i>Fairy Tales Told for Children. First Collection.</i>

Fairy Tales Told for Children. First Collection. is a collection of nine fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. The tales were published in a series of three installments by C. A. Reitzel in Copenhagen, Denmark between May 1835 and April 1837, and represent Andersen's first venture into the fairy tale genre.

<i>Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection</i>

Fairy Tales Told for Children. New Collection is a collection of ten fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen. The tales were published in a series of three installments by C. A. Reitzel in Copenhagen, Denmark between October 1838 and December 1841.

Ellen Price

Ellen Juliette Collin Price de Plane, better known as Ellen Price, was a Danish ballerina and actress, and a model for the statue The Little Mermaid in Copenhagen.

Fairy Tale Police Department is an Australian animated series, produced by the company Yoram Gross-EM.TV in co-production with EM.TV & Merchandising AG, Victory Media Group, and Talit Communications. It aired on Seven Network at various times. Known as La Brigade des Contes de Fées in France.

Dinna Bjørn

Dinna Bjørn is a Danish ballet dancer and choreographer. She has specialized dancing and directing the ballets of August Bournonville. Bjørn has also created five Hans Christian Andersen ballets for the Pantomime Theatre in Copenhagen's Tivoli.

Lise la Cour

Lise la Cour (1944–2016) was a Danish ballerina, choreographer and dance teacher. After training at the company's ballet school, she premièred at the Royal Danish Ballet in 1961 and went on to star in a series of ballets including Bournonville's Napoli, Balanchine's The Four Temperaments and Flemming Flindt's The Young Man Must Marry. From the late 1970s, she was principally a choreographer, creating ballets based on the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen's, starting with Hyrdinden og skorstensfejeren in 1988. She was Viceballetmester of the Royal Danish Ballet from 1988-1995 and was involved in several large theatre productions in the following years until she was appointed Administrative Director of the Royal Danish Opera from 1999 to 2001, ensuring a smooth transition between the former opera director Elaine Padmore and newcomer Kasper Holten. In 2002, she moved to San Jose, California, where she was appointed school director of the Ballet San Jose until she established her own school, Lise la Cour's LaCademy of Ballet, in 2012.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Hans Christian Andersen at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. 1 2 "Top Grossers of 1953". Variety . January 13, 1954. p. 10.
  3. 1 2 "Looks Like Nearly All Is Forgiven Goldwyn By Once-Irked Danes". Variety . September 23, 1953. p. 7. Retrieved October 8, 2019 via Archive.org.
  4. Decca A-919 cataloged at http://78discography.com/Dec28000.htm
  5. Decca 9-364 cataloged at http://castalbums.org/labels/?label=Decca
  6. Decca DL 5433 cataloged at http://lccn.loc.gov/99569726
  7. Notice in the Times, 17 December 1952, page 3: "The film goes into the programme at the Carlton Cinema on Friday." - found 2013-08-11 via The Times Digital Archive
  8. "'Hans' 80G in 6 Days, May Set Records in 2 B'Way Theatres". Daily Variety . p. 3.
  9. "The 25th Academy Awards (1953) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-20.
  10. "NY Times: Hans Christian Andersen". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times . Baseline & All Movie Guide. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-10-03. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  11. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  12. "AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  13. IMDb: Hans Christian Andersen - Trivia Linked 2013-08-11