Danny Kaye


Actor
Danny Kaye

About

Also Known As
David Daniel Kaminsky
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
January 18, 1913
Died
March 03, 1987
Cause of Death
Heart Attack

Biography

Gifted, energetic and immensely charismatic comedic entertainer who honed his skills as a rapid-fire patter singer, a comedian and a master of fractured foreign accents and mimicry on the "Borscht Belt" circuit of Catskill resorts and in vaudeville, before moving to Broadway and films in the early 1940s. With clever songs and special material tailored to showcase his comedic gifts and li...

Family & Companions

Sylvia Fine
Wife
Composer, lyricist. Married 1940 until Kaye's death in 1987; died October 28, 1991 of emphysema at age 78.

Bibliography

"Fine and Danny"
Sylvia Fine, Alfred A. Knopf (1991)
"The Danny Kaye Story"
Kurt Singer (1958)

Notes

"I was a wife-made man."--Danny Kaye (quoted in "Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion", 9th edition, 1988).

Original last name alternately spelled Kominiski and Kominsky in various sources.

Biography

Gifted, energetic and immensely charismatic comedic entertainer who honed his skills as a rapid-fire patter singer, a comedian and a master of fractured foreign accents and mimicry on the "Borscht Belt" circuit of Catskill resorts and in vaudeville, before moving to Broadway and films in the early 1940s. With clever songs and special material tailored to showcase his comedic gifts and light sweet voice written by Sylvia Fine (whom he married in 1940) and the backing of Samuel Goldwyn with whom he signed in 1943, Kaye starred in a series of evergreen comedies with music, often playing befuddled innocents who act with surprising heroism and ultimately get the girl. Among his most beloved classic films are "Wonder Man" (1945) "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947), "The Inspector General" (1949), "Hans Christian Andersen" (1952) and "The Court Jester" (1956).

By the early 1950s Kaye was actively involved with UNICEF and made a short film called "Assignment Children" (1954) for the United Nations. He also won a Special Academy Award in 1954 for "his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people." His film career came to a virtual halt as he focused on his Emmy winning TV variety show, "The Danny Kaye Show" (1963-67) and his work with UNICEF in the 1960s and often performed with symphony orchestras as guest conductor.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Himself
Skokie (1981)
The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
The Ragpicker
The Man From the Diners' Club (1963)
Ernie Klenk
On the Double (1961)
Pfc. Ernest Williams/Gen. Sir Lawrence Mackenzie-Smith
The Five Pennies (1959)
Ernest Loring "Red" Nichols
Merry Andrew (1958)
Andrew Larabee
Me and the Colonel (1958)
S. [Samuel] L. Jacobowsky
The Court Jester (1956)
Hubert Hawkins
White Christmas (1954)
Phil Davis
Knock on Wood (1954)
Jerry Morgan
Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
Hans Christian Andersen
On the Riviera (1951)
Jack Martin/Henri Duran
The Inspector General (1949)
Georgi
It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Himself
A Song Is Born (1948)
Professor Hobart Frisbee
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Walter Mitty
The Kid from Brooklyn (1946)
Burleigh Sullivan [also known as Tiger Sullivan]
Wonder Man (1945)
Edwin Dingle/[Buster] "Buzzy" Bellew
Up in Arms (1944)
Danny Weems
Getting an Eyeful (1938)
Cupid Takes a Holiday (1938)
Money on Your Life (1938)
Dime a Dance (1937)

Music (Feature Film)

While We're Young (2015)
Song Performer
The Man Who Drove with Mandela (1998)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Entertaining the Troops (1989)
Other

Cast (Special)

The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1984)
Musical Comedy Tonight (1981)
Disneyland's 25th Anniversary (1980)
Host
CBS: On the Air (1978)
Pinocchio (1976)
Gepetto
Peter Pan (1976)
The American Film Institute Salute to John Ford (1973)
Host
An Hour With Danny Kaye (1960)
Operation Entertainment (1954)

Cast (Short)

Assignment Children (1954)
Hula From Hollywood (1954)
I Am An American (1944)
Himself

Life Events

1937

Short film debut, "Dime a Dance" (two-reel short; produced by small independent film company, Educational Pictures)

1938

Performed in cabaret show at the Dorchester in London

1938

Starred in "Getting an Eyeful" and "Cupid Takes a Holiday", short subjects for Educational Pictures; three shorts were later compiled into film titled, "The Danny Kaye Story/Birth of a Star" (1944)

1939

Broadway debut in "The Straw Hat Revue", comprised of skit material from summer camp in Pennsylvania that he, Sylvia Fine, Max Liebman and Imogene Coca had worked in

1939

New York stage debut, "Left of Broadway"

1941

Gained first major notice for his high-speed novelty number, "Tchaikovsky" in the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin Broadway musical, "Lady in the Dark"

1941

Headlined a vaudeville revue at the Palace Theater in NY

1941

Rejected MGM contract at $3,000 per week

1941

Starred in the Cole Porter musical "Let's Face It" on Broadway

1943

Signed contract with Samuel Goldwyn who insisted he lighten his hair to blond; Sylvia Fine also signed by Goldwyn to write special material for husband

1944

Feature film debut in "Up in Arms"

1945

Premiere of "The Danny Kaye Show" on CBS radio

1948

First performed at the London Palladium

1952

Formed Dena Productions with Sylvia Fine

1953

Signed with MGM to film a musical version of "Huckleberry Finn" co-starring Gene Kelly; film postponed, then project abandoned

1963

Starred on "The Danny Kaye Show" on TV

1966

Toured Vietnam war fronts with the USO

1969

Played character part of ragpicker in final film, "The Madwoman of Chaillot"

1981

TV movie debut, "Skokie"

1986

Made guest appearance playing a dentist on "The Bill Cosby Show"

Photo Collections

Up in Arms - Movie Poster
Up in Arms - Movie Poster
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) - Movie Posters
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Five Pennies, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) After You've Gone, Armstrong With new New York pal Tony (Harry Guardino, and date Valerie Allen) and his own blind date Willa (Barbara Bel Geddes), cornet player Red Nichols (Danny Kaye) from Utah, unfamiliar with the ways of the 1920's speakeasy, gets a look at Louis Armstrong, mentioned so-far only as a new player from New Orleans, who plays then sings, two standards, in The Five Pennies, 1959.
Five Pennies, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) Go Ahead And Dance True life chronicle of Jazz great Loring
Five Pennies, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) Lullaby In Ragtime Leading man Danny Kaye as band leader Red Nichols with his real-life wife Sylvia Fine's song and Eileen Wilson's vocal for Barbara Bel Geddes playing his wife, on the bus with bandmates, including Ray Anthony (who was a top-drawer trumpet player and bandleader and who remains the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller orchestra!) on the clarinet playing Jimmy Dorsey and Shelly Manne with the drumsticks, in the hit bio-pic The Five Pennies, 1959.
Five Pennies, The (1959) -- (Movie Clip) (Back Home Again In) Indiana Red Nichols, the guy Danny Kaye plays, and who also plays Danny's cornet solos throughout the picture, makes his cameo here as one of the radio eskimos (the other guy with the tambourine on the left), in gag montage about getting by in the music business, in the hit Paramount bio-pic The Five Pennies, 1959.
Hans Christian Andersen (1952) -- (Movie Clip) The King's New Clothes The original tale by the titular hero is in fact the "Emperor's" new clothes, but the tune by Frank Loesser is about a king, delivered by the famous 19th century Danish author as played by Danny Kaye, early in Samuel Goldwyn's Hans Christian Andersen, 1952.
Hans Christian Andersen (1952) -- (Movie Clip) Ugly Duckling Mocked by his peers because the doctor's shaved his head, young Lars (Peter Votrian) is the lucky recipient of a tale from local (Danish) storyteller Hans (Danny Kaye), another Frank Loesser original written for Samuel Goldwyn's film, Hand Christian Andersen, 1952.
Song Is Born, A (1948) -- (Movie Clip) Daddy-o Head-turning introduction of Virginia Mayo, as Honey (Barbara Stanwyck was “Sugar” in the original Ball Of Fire, 1942, also directed by Howard Hawks), dubbed by Jeri Sullavan, with the Page Cavanaugh trio (Al Viola on guitar, Lloyd Pratt on bass), song by Don Raye and Gene de Paul, Danny Kaye as observing professor Frisbee, in A Song Is Born, 1948.
Song Is Born, A (1948) -- (Movie Clip) Dorsey, Armstrong, Etc. Danny Kaye is the music professor doing research but this is only a showcase for big musical guests, notably Tommy Dorsey on trombone, ending with Lionel Hampton joining Louis Armstrong, in one of his best-ever on-camera trumpet solos, from Samuel Goldwyn's A Song Is Born, 1948.
Song Is Born, A (1948) -- (Movie Clip) How Jazz Was Born The musical show-stopper, joining the original novelty number by Don Raye and Gene de Paul, Virginia Mayo dubbed by Jeri Sullavan, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet on sax, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Mel Powell on piano, and Louie Bellson drumming, Danny Kaye the professor in charge, in Howard Hawks’ remake of his own Ball Of Fire, 1942, A Song Is Born, 1948.
Song Is Born, A (1948) -- (Movie Clip) Just Another Tomato For Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper in Ball Of Fire, it was "Apple," now with Virginia Mayo as stripper "Honey" and Danny Kaye the music professor, Howard Hawks, directing again, changes fruits, Benny Goodman the professor in horn-rims, in the musical remake A Song Is Born, 1948.
Merry Andrew (1958) -- (Movie Clip) Chin Up, Stout Fellow Public school teacher Andrew Larrabee (Danny Kaye) receives brothers Matthew (Noel Purcell) and Dudley (Robert Coote), who advise him to stand up to their father, his headmaster, their voices dubbed for the song by Saul Chaplin and Johnny Mercer, early in Merry Andrew, 1958.
Merry Andrew (1958) -- (Movie Clip) Salud The Gallini circus family led by their patriarch (Salvatore Baccaloni) celebrates the upcoming marriage of Andrew (Danny Kaye) and their Selena (Pier Angeli), director Michael Kidd with choreography to a tune by Saul Chaplin and Johnny Mercer, in Merry Andrew, 1958.

Trailer

Family

Jacob Kaminsky
Father
Tailor. Worked in NY garment center.
Clara Kaminsky
Mother
Died when Kaye was 14.
Mac Kaminsky
Brother
Lawrence Kaminsky
Brother
Died 1969.
Dena Kaye
Daughter
Travel writer. Born 1946.

Companions

Sylvia Fine
Wife
Composer, lyricist. Married 1940 until Kaye's death in 1987; died October 28, 1991 of emphysema at age 78.

Bibliography

"Fine and Danny"
Sylvia Fine, Alfred A. Knopf (1991)
"The Danny Kaye Story"
Kurt Singer (1958)

Notes

"I was a wife-made man."--Danny Kaye (quoted in "Halliwell's Filmgoer's Companion", 9th edition, 1988).

Original last name alternately spelled Kominiski and Kominsky in various sources.

Donald Spoto in "Enchantment: The Life of Laurence Olivier" (1992) alleges that Olivier had a passionate 10-year affair with Danny Kaye and had written about it for his autobiography but Olivier's wife Joan Plowright ordered the reference deleted.

He received the UNICEF'S first award for Distinguished Service from the United Nation's Children's Fund.

UNICEF'S ambassador-at-large for 34 years.

Given the Scopus Laureate in 1977.

He received a honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Colgate University.

Honorary member of the American College of Surgeons.

Honorary member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

He was awarded the Wateler Peace Prize from the Carnegie Foundation in 1981.

Made Chevalier in the Legion of Honor by French government 1986)

Received the Knight's Cross of the First Class of the Order of Danneborg by the Danish Government.

He was co-owner of the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club.