Friday, July 4, 2014

Hans Christian Andersen (2012)

Hans Christian AndersenHans Christian Andersen (1805-75) was an Ugly Duckling. He lived in the third largest town Odense, in Denmark. The son of a cobbler he was poverty ridden and a failure as an actor and it wasn't until he moved to Copenhagen and won the patronage of Frederick VI, through his poetry, that he wrote his fairy tales and developed into a swan. Like many artists he wasn't particularly happy, and never did marry, although he was very fond of Jenny Lind (1820-87) the Swedish Nightingale a soprano given the name by P.T. Barnum during her tour of the United States between 1850-52.) Charles Vidor's film does state at the beginning, This is not the story of Hans Christian Andersen but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales. The Danes objected to the way Hans Christian Andersen was portrayed even though Goldwyn had rejected 21 previous manuscripts, so the film company inserted this statement in the credits.

Danny Kaye with his chiselled features does resemble H.C.Andersen when looking at his profile, but apart from this facial feature that's where it stops. Kaye had dark hair but Hollywood soon changed that and he became a blonde, Andersen also had dark hair but he kept it that way.

Unlike some earlier musicals, this film does have a strong story line with loads of songs written by "Baby, It's Cold Outside", Frank Loessen, such as Thumbelina, Ugly Duckling, No Two People, and of course Wonderful Copenhagen. The scenery is very clever, the backgrounds look like illustrations from fairy tale books, but as the camera zooms in to the foreground the buildings and props become three dimensional similar to a pop-up-book.

There are four ballet scenes that I probably found boring back in `52, but revisiting them now, they are visually very interesting, technically I wouldn't know if they are good or mediocre but for a Hollywood musical film, four ballets must of taken an enormous amount of consideration seeing as the film is really for kids. Once again the backdrops for the ballets also resemble fairy tale illustrations and pop-up-books.

Instead of a soprano, Andersen falls in love with a ballet dancer and here's a musical that doesn't have a very happy ending because poor Hans gets mixed up with a married woman. The ballet dancer Doro, is played by Zizi Jeanmaire, and is married to Niels played by Farley Granger. During the last part of the film, the audience is taken behind the scenes of the ballet company playing at the Royal Theater in Copenhagen, but this isn't a film of a show included in a show, similar to earlier musicals, but an uplifting musical film with lots of music with catchy tunes helped by a ton of children.

The last ballet scene takes 17 minutes, quite long for a popular movie. In the film Hans writes a story especially for his love Doro, unfortunately Niels locks him in a cupboard so Andersen never sees her perform but has to use his imagination.

The ballet takes place on land and under the ocean. The surface waves are pop-up so that the dancers can be seen dancing in between the swells, it's really very clever visually, and there's no trickery here. Under the sea filled with monsters and witches, the heroine is probably attached to a pulley so that she can be seen swimming for the surface. There are no blue screens in this film, all effects are up-front and work perfectly similar to a staged ballet. Once again the technicolor process is used and this enhances the fairy tale effect with vivid colors.

Hans Christian Andersen fairy stories are not violent when compared to the Grimm brothers, but the themes usually have a lesson, and in the story written for Doro's ballet, "The Little Mermaid," it is saying that aiming for the stars does not always bring happiness, but then of course Walt Disney hadn't yet arrived on the scene and he soon changed that philosophy.

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN presents a fanciful, fictionalised re-telling of the famed storyteller's life, highlighted by Frank Loesser's beautiful score and the perfect casting of Danny Kaye in the central role.

As the film opens, cobbler Hans is entertaining the children of Odense, Denmark, with yet another fantastic tale, much to the consternation of the schoolmaster who feels the children are having their time wasted when they should be studying. This seems to be the opinion of most of the townspeople, so Hans is politely told to leave town...for a while anyway. Hans and his young assistant travel to the bright lights and bustle of Copenhagen for a fresh start, but old habits die hard and soon Hans is entertaining a new group of children with his amazing storytelling talents. When Hans is engaged to make slippers and toe-shoes for the city's ballet troupe, he becomes entranced by the prima ballerina Doro (Zizi Jeanmaire in her film debut) not knowing that she's married to the troupe's tough choreographer Niels (Farley Granger). His story of "The Little Mermaid", inspired by Doro, becomes the ballet's new work, but discovering the truth, Hans returns to Odense a hero, his storytelling now famous all over Europe.

Danny Kaye is just was is called for in the role of Hans. His natural warmth, fatherly air and ability to combine pathos and heart serves him well in his performance. Zizi Jeanmaire as the glamorous Doro likewise is perfect casting (although Moira Shearer from "The Red Shoes" was first choice, pregnancy prevented her from doing the film). Having shot to fame in husband Roland Petit's ballet version of "Carmen", Jeanmaire adds a European beauty and elegance to her role, and Petit staged all the ballet numbers in this film too. Farley Granger's Niels is the perfect foil to Danny Kaye's innocent and childlike Hans, and the love triangle is thrillingly brought to life in the Dream Ballet.

Frank Loesser's score is what most people remember the film for, and it's one of the best written by the legendary composer-lyricist. He had just come from his phenomenal success on Broadway with the score of "Guys and Dolls" and Hollywood was eager for him to ply his trade for the movie musicals of the 1950's. Songs like "Thumbelina", "The Ugly Duckling", "Wonderful Wonderful Copenhagen" and "I'm Hans Christian Andersen" have become well-known standards. "Inchworm", bookended by children chanting their times tables, is so lovely and gentle in it's beauty, and "No Two People" is a jaunty little duet for Hans and Doro in the Dream Ballet.

This film was beautifully-photographed by Oscar-nominee Harry Stradling. The film also received Oscar nominations for Costume Design (Mary Wills, Madame Karinska), Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Music Scoring (Walter Scharf), Best Song and Best Sound Recording. The Technicolor photography is absolutely stunning and the bold colours pop off the screen with their brightness and clarity.

Buy Hans Christian Andersen (2012) Now

I fell hopelessly in love with Danny Kaye when I was 8 years old, and I'm still crazy about him many years later. . . no other performer of whom I'm aware has ever shown his unique combination of comic virtuousity, tenderness, silliness, physical bravado and dramatic depth.

He could also really sing, not just comically but straightforwardly, in his naturally rich, sweet lyric-tenor voice. If you really listen to the "Inchworm" song, you will hear just how fine his voice really was.

The ballet sequences in the movie transfixed me as an eight-year-old ballerina wannabe. Maybe they look hokey to present-day grownups, but I bet most kids would immediately understand.

One of the best movies ever!!!!

Read Best Reviews of Hans Christian Andersen (2012) Here

This is a truly charming film for people of all ages.

Danny Kaye is perfectly cast as the famous and wonderful

story-teller, Hans Christian Anderson. I highly recommend this

very enchanting film, and would give it ten stars if I could!

Buy it, and your in for a real treat.

Want Hans Christian Andersen (2012) Discount?

When I was 11 years old, I wanted to marry Danny Kaye when I grew up; my parents kindly explained to me that he was dead. I still don't really believe it, though -Danny Kaye will always live on in the imaginations of his fans.

No comedian was ever so tender; no romantic actor was ever so silly. Danny Kaye is still my hero, and he always will be!

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