Hans Christian Andersen
A cobbler makes up stories for children, goes to Copenhagen, falls in love with a married ballerina, and writes a ballet for her.
Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye) tells children a story of a king wearing magical clothes that a boy sees through. The Burgomaster (John Qualen) and the Schoolmaster (John Brown) make the children go back to school. The orphan Peter (Joseph Walsh) is an apprentice to the cobbler Hans. The Schoolmaster threatens to quit and gets the Burgomaster to expel Hans from the town. Peter persuades Hans to go to Copenhagen.
On the road Hans stops and talks to a dog. Hans walks and sings “I’m Hans Christian Andersen.” Peter catches up to him and has brought the cobbler tools. On a ship they sing “Wonderful Copenhagen.” People sell things in the street. Hans is arrested, but Peter gets away and overhears Niels (Farley Granger) tell Otto (Philip Tonge) to get a cobbler.
From jail Hans sees a girl, makes a puppet, and sings “Thumbelina.” Otto gets Hans out of jail and takes him to a dress rehearsal of a ballet. Ballerina Doro (Zizi Jeanmaire) wants new shoes. Doro shares her lunch with Niels, and they kiss. Then they quarrel as Hans comes in. Otto tells Hans that they are married. Hans fantasizes rescuing her from Niels.
Hans writes a story for Doro. Peter reads the story, and the wind takes it to Doro and Niels. Peter tells them who wrote it. Peter tells Hans that Doro has the story. Hans sees the bald boy Lars (Peter Votrian) and sings “The Ugly Duckling.”
Hans thinks of Doro and sings “Anywhere I Wander.” The father of Lars prints the story and offers to pay Hans for stories. Hans sings “I’m Hans Christian Andersen” again and shows the article to Peter. Hans learns the ballet company has returned, and he imagines Doro dancing as his bride. They sing “No Two People” … have ever been so in love.
Peter warns Hans that they will laugh at him. Hans feels let down and parts with Peter. The ballet “The Little Mermaid” by Hans is to open, but Niels tells Hans to leave and locks him in the prop room. Dancers perform the ballet. The Little Mermaid (Doro) has fallen in love with a prince and goes to witches to get the veil that makes her look human. She dances with the prince and then runs back to the sea.
The next day Niels tells Doro that Hans is still locked up. Hans brings the shoes to Doro and says he knows she is miserable with Niels, who comes in with a gift for her. Hans realizes they love each other and leaves.
Hans heads for home and finds Peter on the road. Hans says he won’t write any more stories, but Peter says he will. In the final scene Hans sings a medley to the children and the people of the town.
This musical with songs by Frank Loesser emphasizes the stories of Hans Christian Andersen more than his biography, though he did experience unrequited love for the opera singer Jenny Lind. The story shows how a creative person with a rich imagination can be swept away from reality.