Hans Christian Andersen (1952): A Fairy-Tale Feast for the Eyes, Ears, and Soul

“Everything you look at can become a fairy tale and you can get a story from everything you touch.”

H. C. Andersen

This movie is about a spinner of tales, a dreamer of dreams. In order to appreciate the delightful, colorful, smorgasbord that awaits, one must remember that this movie makes no claim in being an accurate biographical account of Andersen’s life. In fact, the title card says it is a fairy tale about the author himself.

Danny Kaye plays the title character. He is lovable, innocent, and optimistic. He is also sensitive and dreamy-eyed and this is where the plot of the film comes in.

Hans disrupts the town he lives in by distracting the children from their schoolwork with his stories. Kicked out of town, he leaves for the grand city of Copenhagen only to fall for Doro, a beautiful ballerina (Zizi Jeanmaire in her film debut) who is wed to her demanding choreographer (Farley Granger). Where and when will outsider Hans find his place in the world?

I love how this film clearly illustrates the impact Hans’s stories have on those around him. To the children he imparts joy, adding more to life than just schoolwork in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” To some he gives comfort as in “The Ugly Duckling” and “Thumbelina.” When Hans writes “The Little Mermaid” ballet for Doro it becomes a hit for the ballet company and a turning point in their relationship.

For me this movie is like a warm hug. I grew up watching it and singing along to the many delightful songs. Its beauty comes from the simplicity in the story line and Hans’s amiable nature wonderfully displayed by Danny Kaye. The gorgeous Technicolor, stunning direction by Charles Vidor, and cinematography by Harry Stradling doesn’t hurt either 😉 The Little Mermaid Ballet is one of my favorite dance sequences in the movies. The staging is unique, creative, and the choreography beautifully suggests a mermaid’s underwater movements.

Frank Loesser’s memorable score brilliantly inhabit Hans’s world adding to the dreamy quality that blurs reality and fantasy. Composer-lyricist Loesser, whose star was ascending in the music world, was Goldwyn’s choice to write the songs for the film. In 1949, he won the Oscar for “Baby, Its Cold Outside” and the following year he had tremendous success with Guys and Dolls on Broadway. When Goldwyn bought the film rights for the show, he also signed Loesser for Hans Christian Andersen.

In a few ways this movie reminds me of The Red Shoes (1948). The tale of “The Red Shoes” was written by Andersen. Both movies were filmed in Technicolor, contain gorgeous ballet sequences, and share similar themes. If you enjoy The Red Shoes (and who doesn’t?) you might enjoy Hans Christian Andersen as well.

Lastly, I would recommend this movie even for those who aren’t fans of Danny Kaye’s comedic style. The way he interacts with children is a joy to behold and the drama in the script allows him to show more range as an actor, giving one a better picture of the man of many talents.

This movie is perfect for a rainy day, and for those inevitable days when you and I feel lower than low. It will perk you right up and give you something to smile about. Who could ask for more than that?

This post is my contribution to The Classic Literature on Film Blogathon hosted by Paul of Silver Screen Classics. My thanks go out to Paul for letting me participate in this event. Click here, here, and here to read the rest of the entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Rose Marie (1954): Love Amidst the Rockies

Tomboy meets manly man, falls for his charm, and becomes a “lady” for him. Sound familiar?

Rose Marie has shades of two other highly esteemed musicals of the 50’s – MGM’s Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Warner Brothers’ Calamity Jane (1953), in which a tomboy gets transformed into a lady. Interestingly, these films also share the same leading man, Howard Keel. What makes Rose Marie unique however, is the style of the music, the casting of the heroine, and the ending of the story.

This 1954 adaptation of Rudolf Friml and Herbert Stothart’s operetta, Rose-Marie, was MGM’s third time bringing this story to the big screen. The first film, now considered to be lost, (1928) was a silent with Joan Crawford playing the lead. The second and best-known version, (1936) starring Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, gave the team their signature song, “Indian Love Call.” Each time the film has been re-made, the story has changed, but the 1954 version bears close resemblance to the original operetta. While the film only retained three of the songs from the original operetta, it did add five others. The duet “I Have the Love” is exceptionally lovely.

Taking us on this journey into the Canadian wilderness and into the heart of Rose Marie is the lovely Ann Blyth. As the titular character, Ann is sassy and independent, while still retaining her feminine charm. She is the perfect blend of innocence and fire. Unlike Betty Hutton’s Annie Oakley and Doris Day’s Calamity Jane, Ann Blyth’s Rose Marie is not larger than life; quite the contrary. Ann plays the part in an understated fashion. She brings out Rose Marie’s naivety, and her plight to find her proper place in the world. I think this is what made her so wonderful in Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) – her ability to portray a character who is innocent and naive about certain things, but also very vulnerable and emotionally intelligent at the same time. And to play that character in a likable way that does not come across as fake, contrived, or cloying.

Note: I enjoy Betty’s Annie and Doris’s Jane as well; however, I like to note different acting styles and character interpretations. I love the individual qualities each one possesses and appreciate each of them for what they are. The differences are what makes each special, unique, and exciting to watch. We move on… 🙂

Rounding out the cast is Howard Keel, Fernando Lamas, Bert Lahr, and Marjorie Main. The most notable for me was Bert Lahr. I believe this is the second film I’ve seen him in. The first, of course, as the incomparable Cowardly Lion in Oz. He does have a number which is fun to see and makes some of his lion grunts and sounds.

Howard Keel and Fernando Lamas add their rich baritone voices to the mix while vying for the hand of Rose Marie. Keel is well cast as the good-hearted Mountie and Lamas as the ambiguous trapper. In my eyes, these two couldn’t be more opposite – all the more fitting for the story.

MGM pulled out the stops by filming Rose Marie in the Canadian Rockies, and it is simply breathtaking. The gorgeous scenery filmed in eye-popping color enhances the realism of the story and the plight of the Mounties. In addition, the cinematography by Paul Vogel (High Society, 1956) is beautiful and engaging. The film is also the first movie musical to be released in the new widescreen format at that time, CinemaScope.

I had to watch this film twice to fully appreciate it because it took me be surprise. All in all, Rose Marie (1954) is very enjoyable, featuring one of the most beautiful duets, talented singers, nature’s beauty, and produced by the most prestigious studio of Hollywood’s Golden Age. If any of those mentioned above make your heart skip a beat, this film is calling you…

This post is my contribution to the O Canada! Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Speakeasy. Thanks, ladies, for letting me participate! Head over here to read the rest of the posts honoring this vast and beautiful country.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Anchors Aweigh (1945) – A Man and a Mouse

Anchors Aweigh is a delightful, breezy piece of entertainment released in 1945 by the master of musicals, MGM. The movie features Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly as sailors on leave in Hollywood, USA, looking to pick up dates. One is an experienced “sea wolf” (Kelly) and the other is shy and naive (Sinatra). The woman in their lives (Kathryn Grayson) is an extra at MGM trying make it big at the studio as a musical star.

“Screenland, April 1945”

Anchors Aweigh packs quite a punch in the talent department. The film was directed by George Sidney who was just coming into his own with the previous year’s hit, Bathing Beauty. Sidney would go on to direct Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Show Boat (1951), two of the studio’s most successful musicals during the 1950’s. The producer, Joe Pasternak, suggested the pairing of Sinatra and Kelly which turned out to be magical. The two bounce off of each other so well, and you truly believe that they have been friends for years. Sinatra and Kelly would go on to make two other pictures together, but this is my favorite of the three.

Anchors Aweigh marked a turning point in Sinatra’s career. He danced (taught by Gene Kelly), appeared in color, and starred in an MGM musical, all for the first time. Sinatra was already a beloved singer, but his role as Clarence was his first successful venture in movies. He made five other films before Anchors Aweigh, but this one endeared him to his fans and grew his audience.

Gene Kelly is in his prime in this film. He had just hit his stride at Columbia Pictures in Cover Girl with Rita Hayworth (1944). In it he was given creative control of the dances, as Columbia was inexperienced in making musicals. He blew every one away with his work in Cover Girl that by the time he returned to MGM they were ready to hand over the reins for his next musical.

Gene Kelly’s choreography is absolutely delightful in this film, and we get quite a few dances in a variety of styles. The most famous of these routines is “The Worry Song” where Gene Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse (animated flawlessly by Hanna and Barbera). The desire to do something never done before prompted this dance routine. It was planned out by Gene and his assistant, Stanley Donen.

“Stanley Donen and I sat around for a couple of days trying to think of something and after one long period of silence Stanley suggested, ‘ How about doing a dance with a cartoon?’ This was it…I get all the credit for this, but it would have been impossible for me without Stanley, he worked with the cameraman and called the shots in all these intricate timings and movements. It wasn’t easy for the cameraman-he was being asked to photograph something that wasn’t there.”

gene kelly

The sequence is sheer heaven and a technical tour de force. One can’t help but be amazed by this number, and the pure joy that flows from Gene’s performance is utterly contagious.

Let’s talk about the score for Anchors Aweigh. From “Jealousy,” sung by Grayson, to “If You Knew Susie,” sung by Kelly and Sinatra, to the magnificent rendition of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” performed at the Hollywood Bowl-this movie is a musical treasure chest! The one song I’m not a fan of is “All of a Sudden My Heart Sings,” a solo by Grayson. It never quite gets off the ground and slows the whole movie down. Jule Styne (of Funny Girl fame) and Sammy Cahn wrote six new songs for this movie. One of which, “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” was nominated for an Oscar.

Image via: https://journeysinclassicfilm.com/2015/07/17/anchors-aweigh-1945/

Did you ever wish you could go back in time and wander through the front gates of MGM? Me too! This film affords us the opportunity to do so! There’s footage of the MGM commissary, the Thalberg building, a recording stage, and the backlot. We get a very rare glimpse of a fleeting time in history, all in glorious Technicolor.

All in all, this movie is a time capsule. It’s for lovers of the MGM musical, of the joy of dancing, of the American spirit.

Awards & Trivia

  • Anchors Aweigh won the Oscar for Best Musical Score: Georgie Stoll
  • Anchors Aweigh earned Gene Kelly a nomination for Best Actor
  • Anchors Aweigh was nominated for Best Picture and Best (Color) Cinematography
  • Jose Iturbi, the Spanish conductor and pianist, plays himself in this film
  • A cutout of Esther Williams appears in a shop window as the sailors walk the streets of Hollywood. See if you can spot it!
Kelly, Sinatra, and Williams behind the scenes
Image via: http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/10/Anchors-Aweigh/tcm-archives.html#tcmarcp-199925

To buy today’s movie, click here!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!