HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN  [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] A Film of Samuel Goldwyn!
‘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, screenplay written by Moss Hart and Ben Hecht (uncredited), and Samuel Goldwyn Productions were the producers. It is a fictional, romantic story revolving around the life of the famous Danish poet and story-teller Hans Christian Andersen.
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Nominated: 6 Best Colour Cinematography. Nominated: Best Art Direction and Set Decoration in Colour. Nominated: Best Costume Design in Colour. Nominated: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture for Walter Scharf. Nominated: Best Song for Thumbelina. Nominated: Best Sound Recording.
Cast: Danny Kaye, Farley Granger, Zizi "Renee" Jeanmaire, Joseph Walsh, Philip Tonge, Erik Bruhn, Roland Petit, John Brown, John Qualen, Jeanne Lafayette, Robert Malcolm, George Chandler, Fred Kelsey, Gil Perkins, Peter J. Votrian, Lee Aaker (uncredited), (uncredited), Billy Bevan (uncredited), Chet Brandenburg (uncredited), Barrie Chase (uncredited), Jack Claus (uncredited), Karolyn Grimes (uncredited), Sylvia Lewis (uncredited), Ray Linn Jr. (uncredited), Betty Uitti (uncredited) and Beverly Washburn (uncredited)
Director: Charles Vidor
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Moss Hart, Ben Hecht (uncredited) and Myles Connolly (based on a story)
Composer: Frank Loesser
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Video Resolution: 1080p [Technicolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French and Spanish
Running Time: 112 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: In 1952 producer Samuel Goldwyn presented the world with ‘Hans Christian Andersen,’ a lavish musical biography of the Danish storyteller which wove together details from the writer's life and his beloved fables through the use of songs and musical interludes. Starring Danny Kaye, the film was a fourteen year old project for Goldwyn, who described it as "a long labour of love, because if ever I loved anything in my entire career, this has been it."
Hans Christian Anderson was a beloved author of children's tales. In his life, he had many opportunities and benefactors. His stories were immensely popular, and he was even courted by royalty. 'Hans Christian Anderson', the 1952 film starring Danny Kaye, has nothing to do with any of that. In fact, the film opens with a disclaimer that it is not a telling of the man's life, but a fairy tale dedicated to the creator of so many classic fairy tales of his own.
Danny Kaye of the delightful film 'The Court Jester'  [which I wish they would release on the Blu-ray format, as it would be a massive big seller] plays the title role, transformed into a small town Danish cobbler. He tells fanciful tales to the town children, often with a strong moral component. However, his story time conflicts with the kids' schooling. Eventually both the schoolmaster and a group of concerned parents decide that Hans should be kicked out of town. Overhearing the decision, Hans' apprentice, Peter [Joseph Walsh], convinces Hans to leave for Copenhagen that night and pursue his dreams in the nation's capital. While there, a prominent ballet company requests Hans' skills as a cobbler. Going to deliver the ballet shoes, he falls head over heels for the head ballerina, Doro [Zizi "Renee" Jeanmaire]. In the throes of love, he pens perhaps his most famous tale, "The Little Mermaid."
The name of the game for 'Hans Christian Anderson' is total charm. The Technicolor film is mainly light and cheery, and Danny Kaye appears so effortlessly charming that you can't help but fall instantly in love with the whole production. It's so loveable that when the Danish government filed an official complaint against the film for not being shot in Denmark or featuring Danish actors, producer Samuel Goldwyn invited a representative of the Danish government to view the film. After seeing it once, the complaint was withdrawn.
The beautiful film is buoyed by a set of original songs by Frank Loesser, composer for 'Guys and Dolls.' Unlike most musicals, the songs for 'Hans Christian Anderson' are quite enjoyable and memorable, with strong melodies that don't sound like typical Broadway fare. In fact, the musical numbers are some of the most underrated of the period, coming across as more understated than was typical for the time. The film doesn't stop with songs, also including an extended ballet drawing from Anderson's story of "The Little Mermaid," set to music by Franz Liszt. The movie was shot in Technicolor, so the whole thing looks vibrant and rich, but the production design and colour scheme hit great heights during the ballet.
The script does a brilliant fantastic job of evoking the sense of wonder and merriment that Anderson's stories always possessed. In fact, by framing the story as a fairy tale instead of a literal biopic, the film gets away with a wide-eyed optimism that might seem hopelessly naïve today. Danny Kaye's broad performance similarly works within this context, but might seem terribly dated if the picture had been done straight.
The earnestness extends to the rest of the cast, especially Joseph Walsh as Peter. Acting as Hans Christian Anderson's anchor to reality and loyal confidante, Joseph Walsh does a good job of wearing his heart on his sleeve. Farley Granger, fresh off of the Alfred Hitchcock 'Strangers On A Train,' plays the ballet director in a role that is relatively thankless. At the time of its release, 'Hans Christian Anderson' was an international hit, garnering loads of Academy Award® nominations. In time, its star has faded compared to other musicals of the period, but that makes it ripe for rediscovery. The film is a minor gem, but a gem nonetheless, and worth catching if it should cross your path.
Even before its release, Denmark protested against the film, decrying it as an unfair treatment of their national hero. Goldwyn promptly sent Kaye overseas to effectively allay their concerns. The ploy worked according to the A. Scott Berg book, Goldwyn: A Biography: "Danny Kaye visited Denmark in July 1952. From the airport he went straight to the statue of Andersen in one of Copenhagen’s central parks, to lay flowers. More than fifty policemen were needed to escort him through the throngs who awaited him at the memorial. He climbed the statue and embraced Andersen, then had to be carried on a policeman's shoulders past the thousands of fans." With the Danish public mollified, the production was cleared for take-off and upon its release, ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ earned $6 million dollars and scored 6 OSCAR® nominations for the score, costumes, art direction, sound, cinematography, and song. Although returning empty-handed from the Academy Awards® and Samuel Goldwyn was nonetheless delighted with his film's box office success, declaring, "It all proves to me that this business of ours is still a great and healthy one. If you make your pictures for the whole family, the whole family will make a bee-line for the theatre."
Blu-ray Video Quality – 'Hans Christian Anderson' is presented in this beautiful encoded 1080p transfer and also its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The first thing that will impress you about the image is the Technicolor palette, which is bold and vibrant. In the opening scene, where Hans is talking to children near a bridge, the blue of the river and the greens of the grass pop off the screen. Flesh tones are very warm, sometimes veering toward red. The biggest problem I could see comes from the three-strip process Technicolor employed. When employed perfectly, it looks gorgeous. But here I noticed slight colouring errors around the edges of things, such as the hems of clothing or around the iris of people's eyes. Additionally, these errors contribute to a level of softness that one wouldn't expect for a three-strip Technicolor image. Despite these problems, this is clearly a high-definition image. The extended ballet sequence looks particularly gorgeous. There's a very attractive layer of film grain that gives the transfer a very authentic filmic look and to me this is just first rate.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – 'Hans Christian Anderson' only comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track. For films like these, sometimes the original mixes are best, and I found that the film sounded really good. The gorgeous music gets especially a really good treatment. Balance is reasonable, with the music and voices taking centre stage. I didn't detect any hissing or distortion, making for a clean and smooth track. Imaging was necessarily limited and obviously the surrounds got no use at all. It's not a lot, but it's all the film needs. But with the modern technology around today, I am sure they could of given the soundtrack a makeover of a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, like they have been able to turn 2D films into 3D Blu-ray discs and some Mono films into Stereo, especially with a classic Hollywood film like this, still despite this aspect, it is still a good effort.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [2:43] When was the last time you heard a producer's name mentioned so many times in a film trailer's voiceover?
BONUS: Limited Edition DigiBook: Warner Home Video has packaged ‘Hans Christian Andersen’ in a very attractive beautiful illustrated Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook with production photos, lobby cards, one sheets and drawings. The text provides an overview of the production's lengthy development, as well as biographies of Samuel Goldwyn, Danny Kaye, Renée "Zizi" Jeanmaire, Farley Granger, Roland Petit, Frank Loesser, Moss Hart, Charles Vidor and Hans Christian Andersen.
Finally, 'Hans Christian Anderson' is a minor gem with a winning performance by Danny Kaye and some very memorable songs by Frank Loesser. The image is vibrant but does have a few flaws. The audio, while only Mono, still sounds excellent, but with today’s modern technology available I would have thought they could have expanded the sound element of this beautiful Blu-ray disc, despite this, it certainly highlights the excellent score. While the film does come in a beautiful DigiBook packaging, it is a shame they could not have expanded the special features, as I sure there must be some hidden behind the scene gems in the vaults of Warner Bros., like interviews with the actors and especially outtakes? Despite this 'Hans Christian Anderson' is well worth seeing, especially the magic touch that the director Charles Vidor brought to the screen, and because I am a massive fan of Danny Kaye, this beautiful Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook and an even more the beautiful film, it has gone pride of place in my ever increasing Limited Edition DigiBook Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom