Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

112 mins | Children's works, Musical comedy | 19 December 1952

Director:

Charles Vidor

Writer:

Moss Hart

Producer:

Samuel Goldwyn

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling

Editor:

Daniel Mandell

Production Designers:

Richard Day, Clavé
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HISTORY

The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order. The following written prologue opens the film: "Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of this life, but a fairy tale about this great spinner of fairy tales.”
       The real author Hans Christian Andersen (1805--1875) was born in the Danish town of Odense, near Copenhagen, but he did not work as a cobbler as portrayed in the film. Although he came from a humble background, with help of a friend in Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre, Andersen received a formal education and began writing plays. By the 1840s he had written many of the fairy tales for which he later became famous, including some that were dramatized in the film, such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid."
       Hans Christian Andersen features four dance sequences: “The Ice Skating Ballet,” “The Dream Fantasy,” “The Wedding Fantasy” and the climax of the film, “The Little Mermaid.” The following written prologue introduces this final ballet: "This is the story of the Little Mermaid who fell in love with a Prince and turned to the terrible witches of the sea because they alone possessed that magic thing--a veil which can make a mermaid human." According to the DV review on the film, choreographer Roland Petit, who dances the character of the “prince” in "The Little Mermaid," used 28 supporting dancers in the ballets. Hans Christian Andersen marked famed ballet master Petit's first American film credit. The music for “The Little Mermaid” is based on works by composer Franz Liszt.
       According to the press material ... More Less

The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order. The following written prologue opens the film: "Once upon a time there lived in Denmark a great storyteller named Hans Christian Andersen. This is not the story of this life, but a fairy tale about this great spinner of fairy tales.”
       The real author Hans Christian Andersen (1805--1875) was born in the Danish town of Odense, near Copenhagen, but he did not work as a cobbler as portrayed in the film. Although he came from a humble background, with help of a friend in Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre, Andersen received a formal education and began writing plays. By the 1840s he had written many of the fairy tales for which he later became famous, including some that were dramatized in the film, such as "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Little Mermaid."
       Hans Christian Andersen features four dance sequences: “The Ice Skating Ballet,” “The Dream Fantasy,” “The Wedding Fantasy” and the climax of the film, “The Little Mermaid.” The following written prologue introduces this final ballet: "This is the story of the Little Mermaid who fell in love with a Prince and turned to the terrible witches of the sea because they alone possessed that magic thing--a veil which can make a mermaid human." According to the DV review on the film, choreographer Roland Petit, who dances the character of the “prince” in "The Little Mermaid," used 28 supporting dancers in the ballets. Hans Christian Andersen marked famed ballet master Petit's first American film credit. The music for “The Little Mermaid” is based on works by composer Franz Liszt.
       According to the press material found in the AMPAS production file on the film, producer Samuel Goldwyn conceived of the idea for the film in 1936 and over time employed twenty writers on early drafts of the screenplay. A 9 Jul 1941 HR article stated that Goldwyn was considering a deal with the Walt Disney Studios to produce the film. By Aug 1941, HR reported that the deal was canceled and then reinstated; however, no further information about Disney's involvement has been found. By Nov 1946, LAT reported that Joe Pasternak purchased the film from Goldwyn as a vehicle for Van Johnson, possibly for an M-G-M production; however, no mention of Pasternak or Johnson is found in later production materials on the film. In an 18 Mar 1953 Var article, Frances Goldwyn recalled that her husband Samuel Goldwyn had been negotiating with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II to score the film, but they were later replaced by Frank Loesser. A 6 Jan 1952 NYT articles stated that during initial phases of development Don Hartman, Mel Shavelson , Jo Swerling and Samuel Taylor worked on the screenplays and set construction for the film, but the extent of their contribution is not known.
       Moss Hart's screenplay, which was completed in 1951, finally met with Goldwyn's approval and the film was slated to roll in Jan 1952. According to a 2 Jul 1952 DV article, Hart asked the Screen Writers Guild to review the onscreen credit proposed by Myles Connolly, who claimed that he was the author of the original story. A 13 Jul 1952 NYT article explained that the Screen Writers Guild determined that the onscreen credit should read, "Screenplay by Moss Hart based on a story by Myles Connolly."
       A 26 Oct 1950 LAT article stated that Goldwyn was considering Moira Shearer and Margot Fonteyn for the film; however, an 18 Mar 1953 Var article stated that Shearer became pregnant. Shearer and Fonteyn were replaced by Parisian-born ballerina Renée Jeanmaire. As noted in the HR production charts for the film, the ballerina’s name was changed for Hans Christian Andersen to the single name Jeanmaire, as seen in the onscreen credits.
       As noted in several reviews and the press materials, the film cost over $4,000,000 to produce. An 18 Mar 1953 Var article stated that Goldwyn demanded that exhibitors charge higher admission prices for the film. According to a 21 Apr 1953 HR news item, the United States Department of Justice requested that RKO furnish information regarding possible "price fixing" on the film. The Anti-Trust Division had received complaints from exhibitors accusing Goldwyn of forcing them to increase admissions to compensate for the film's large production costs. Angry exhibitors complained, but according to the Mar 1953 Var article, exhibitor contracts did not have specific clauses regarding admission prices.
       Before the film's release in Dec 1952, Mar 1952 LAT articles stated that the Danish Foreign Office considered making a formal protest against the film due to its inaccurate portrayal of Andersen. Goldwyn then invited representatives from the Danish Foreign Office to view the film. According to a 5 Aug 1953 DV article, they dropped their complaint after the film was credited with drawing large tourist crowds to Copenhagen. A 10 Jan 1953 DV article stated that the film's release in Denmark was delayed due to a problem in negotiating the percentage of profit Goldwyn and RKO were requesting. Hans Christian Andersen was Goldwyn's last film for RKO. The film was released finally in Copenhagen on 6 Sep 1953; however, according to a 3 Oct 1953 HCN article, Hans Christian Andersen was not well received in the author’s hometown of Odense, Denmark.
       The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography (Color), Best Art Direction and Set Decoration (Color), Best Sound Recording, Best Music for the song "Thumbelina," Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Costume Design (Color). The film marked the screen debuts of Jeanmaire, teenage actor Joey Walsh and Roland Petit, who danced in several ballet sequences as well as choreographed the film.
       On 13 Apr 1952, CBS broadcast a fifteen-minute segment on the See It Now television program featuring the production of the "Ice Skating Ballet" sequence from the film. This was the first time a television broadcast featured a "behind the scenes" look at a film production.
       Although there have been many film and television versions, as well as musicals and operas of Andersen's famous fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen appears to be the only American cinematic portrait of the author released as a feature-length film. According to an 18 Nov 1952 HR article, Hoffberg Productions was releasing a British-made film by the same name based on Andersen's writings, many of which were autobiographical, which was to have a brief theatrical release and broadcast on television. A Danish production entitled Tales of Hans Christian Andersen was reported to have been released in 1952 and then made into a series of half-hour television films. A 1 Nov 1999 Var article notes that Sebastian Barry and Martha Clark were developing a stage musical adaptation of the film utilizing composer Frank Loesser's score; however, as of spring 2003 the production had not been staged.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Jul 1952
pp. 290-91, 308-309.
Box Office
29 Nov 1952.
---
Daily Variety
2 Jul 1952.
---
Daily Variety
25 Nov 1952
p. 3.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1953.
---
Daily Variety
5 Aug 1953.
---
Film Daily
25 Nov 1952
p. 6.
Hollywood Citizen-News
3 Oct 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jul 1941
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Aug 1941
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Aug 1941
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1952
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
29 Feb 1952
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
23 May 1952
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1952.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Nov 1952
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 1953.
---
Los Angeles Times
27 Nov 1946.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Oct 1950.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Mar 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Mar 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Dec 1952.
---
Los Angeles Times
6 Sep 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Nov 1952
p. 1621.
New York Times
16 Mar 1952.
---
New York Times
13 Jul 1952.
---
New York Times
25 Nov 1952
p. 34.
New York Times
26 Nov 1952
p. 20.
New Yorker
6 Dec 1952.
---
Newsweek
8 Dec 1952.
---
Time
1 Dec 1952.
---
Variety
31 Oct 1951.
---
Variety
26 Nov 1952
p. 6.
Variety
18 Mar 1953.
---
Variety
1 Nov 1999.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
Asst prod
WRITERS
Scr
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props asst
COSTUMES
Ballet cost des
Ballet cost executed by
Other cost des
MUSIC
Mus dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Technicolor col consultant
SOURCES
SONGS
"The King's New Clothes," "Inchworm," "I'm Hans Christian Andersen," "Wonderful Copenhagen," "Thumbelina," "The Ugly Duckling," "Anywhere I Wander" and "No Two People," words and music by Frank Loesser.
COMPOSER
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1952
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 25 November 1952
Production Date:
21 January--26 May 1952
Copyright Claimant:
Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
25 November 1952
Copyright Number:
LP2175
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
112
Length(in feet):
10,095
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
15971
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

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 pupil's 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 that day Hans is drawn back to the schoolhouse to see the children. As he hears the schoolchildren drone mathematical phrases, he compares an inchworm’s myopic measuring of beautiful blossoms to the schoolmaster's blindness to beauty and creativity. On yet another day, when the children do not arrive at the sound of the school bell, 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 ... +


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 pupil's 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 that day Hans is drawn back to the schoolhouse to see the children. As he hears the schoolchildren drone mathematical phrases, he compares an inchworm’s myopic measuring of beautiful blossoms to the schoolmaster's blindness to beauty and creativity. On yet another day, when the children do not arrive at the sound of the school bell, 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 near 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 after, 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. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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