Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Hans Christian Andersen Recordings Made Just for Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye learned his songs for Hans Christian Andersen from a fresh-faced kid just out of college.

I discovered Danny Kaye through repeat viewings of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in prime time on KTLA Channel 5. In the late 1970s, Mitty and Kaye’s other Goldwyn features were moved into the rotation at the channel’s weekend afternoon Family Film Festival, hosted by Tom Hatten. The amiable Hatten had joined the station in the early 1950s and was quickly promoted to host of the Popeye show, airing old Fleischer cartoons and instructing young viewers how to draw the characters during the breaks.

Tom Hatten hosted KTLA-5's Family Film Festival on weekend afternoons from the late 1970s through the 1980s

As renowned movie memorabilia collector Rick Greene recently told me: “I’ve been reading – and loving – the Danny Kaye book and just finished the chapter on Hans Christian Andersen, and remembered a story about that film.

“In the early and mid-1980’s, I was friendly with Tom Hatten at KTLA when he hosted the Family Film Festival. I loaned him memorabilia on several occasions which he showed on air and even mentioned my name, giving me credit for the stuff (usually Jerry Lewis or Martin & Lewis posters, books, records, etc., that he’d hold up and talk about). He would usually drive over to my apartment and pick up and then return the stuff... such a nice guy. So, I had the opportunity to sit and shoot the breeze with him a few times.

“One time he told me that in late 1951, he was contacted by someone associated with Frank Loesser to go into the recording studio and record all of the songs he had written for Danny Kaye’s next film for Goldwyn, Hans Christian Andersen. The purpose for this was so Danny, who didn’t read music, could learn the songs from these recordings just before filming was to begin as he was traveling around the world performing his stage act. So Tom and a gal went into the studio with a FULL orchestra and made the recordings of every song. These records were rushed to Kaye wherever he was in the world, and he listened to them over and over.

“Tom said that when the film came out, he noticed that Danny faithfully copied his every inflection and pause from his recordings, which flattered him. He said it was one of the most unusual show biz jobs he ever had, as it was never intended to be heard by anyone other than Danny Kaye!”