Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Adapted by Sally Benson (Meet Me in St. Louis) from the novel by Mary Mapes Dodge, this dazzling musical version of Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates) stars 1950s Hollywood heartthrob Tab Hunter in the title role (as Hans, not the Skates). Living in a small Dutch village, Hans yearns to compete in an upcoming ice-skating competition, for a grand prize of 500 guilders and a gleaming new pair of silver skates. Also, all poor Hans and his sister Trinka (Ellie Sommers) have to their name is two pair of crude wooden skates. Making matters worse, the Brinker family has been living in poverty ever since Hans' father (Ralph Roberts lost his mind while trying to save the local population from a burst dyke. But though Hans is certain that things will never get better, his erstwhile sweetheart, the wealthy Rychie Van Gleck (Peggy King), has faith in both Hans and his future. While the songs in this production, written by Hugh Martin, are rather unremarkable and a bit silly at times (notably the production number "Clop, Clop, Clop", wherein the chorus does a dance in wooden shoes), Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates" is redeemed by a talented supporting cast, including Basil Rathbone (complete with German accent) as the crusty-but-lovable Dr. Boekman, opera diva Jarmila Novotna as Hans' mother, and Olympic skating champ Dick Button as Rychie's brother Peter (in fact, it is Button who steals the show with some astonishing figure skating). Originally telecast live and in color, this 90-minute extravaganza was presented as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special.