Happy Birthday, Danny Kaye!

 

danny-kaye-publicity-shot-for-the-kid-from-brooklyn-samuel-goldwyn-productions-1946Danny Kaye (January 18, 1913 - March 3, 1987) was a popular American comedian, actor, singer and dancer. Kaye appeared in seventeen films, some of the most well-known being: The Kid From Brooklyn (1946), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), White Christmas (1954) and The Court Jester (1956). Kaye's comedic talents were highlighted by his physical comedy, pantomime and nonsense songs, many of which were written by his wife and lyricist Sylvia Fine, whom he met while starring in Broadway show The Straw Hat Revue. 

Danny Kaye was the first ambassador-at-large of UNICEF and worked with the organization for many years, eventually receiving the French Legion of Honor for his dedication. 

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Danny Kaye was born in Brooklyn, New York to two Jewish immigrants. As a young child, Kaye thought about becoming a surgeon but his parents could not afford to send him to medical school. He dropped out of high school and like many young talents waiting to be discovered, had trouble sticking with a job. Kaye was inspired and encouraged to entertain by his mother, who passed when he was young.

Kaye had a transformational moment during a vicious storm in Osaka, Japan--while on tour with the vaudeville group. Kaye held a flashlight to his face during the power outage and kept his foreign-speaking audience calm by singing songs. This experience led him to experiment with pantomime, facial expressions, music and gestures: all of which would become trademarks of his persona.

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Danny Kaye singing his classic, fast-paced hit Tschaikowsky on his radio program

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Danny Kaye performed on film for the first time in a comedy short called Moon Over Manhattan, in 1935, but his feature debut came a few years later when he starred in Up In Arms, in 1944. Producer Samuel Goldwyn immediately recognized Kaye's potential but suggested that he get a nose job to appear "less Jewish." Kaye refused to do so but compromised by dying his hair blond.

Kaye's radio program, The Danny Kaye Show began in 1945, where he collaborated with Abe Burrows and Goodman Ace. The show became popular almost immediately, but Kaye preferred not to extend his contract for further shows, going on instead to perform in many classic films. 

In the 1940s, Kaye starred in eight films, many alongside Hollywood beauty Virginia Mayo. He then teamed up with the Andrews Sisters on Decca Records, producing many hit songs such as The Woody Woodpecker Song, Orange Colored Sky, A Merry Christmas at Grandmother's House (Over the River and Through the Woods) and All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth. His wife Sylvia was by his side on many projects, writing the songs that he performed with such comedic stride. 

 

Danny Kaye as a hilarious guest star on CBS quiz show What's My Line?

Danny Kaye and jazz legend Louis Armstrong performing together.

DannyKaye1In 1948 Danny Kaye traveled to England to perform at the London Palladium music hall. The show was such a success that the Royal family were said to have sat in the front seats, leaving their royal box for the first time ever. The audience was moved to hysterics and he was said to have "roused the Royal family to shrieks of laughter and was the first of many performers who have turned English variety into an American preserve."

His daughter Dena was born in 1946, after whom he would name his own film production company Dena Pictures. CBS was Kaye's entrance into television and he appeared on See It Now with Edward R. Murrow in 1956. He got his own TV show in 1963, entitled The Danny Kaye Show, which ran for four years and gained Kaye four Emmy awards and a Peabody. After that, Kaye appeared on various programs as a guest star, from the popular What's My Line? to hosting the annual telecasts of Wizard of Oz, also on CBS.

 

 

The song Inchworm from Hans Christian Andersen

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Danny Kaye entered the world of drama when he played a Holocaust survivor in TV film Skokie, 1981. His later life continued to be filled with TV appearances on shows from The Muppet Show, The Cosby Show and a remake of The Twilight Zone. As well as his interest in acting, Kaye also loved music and he conducted several performances. He devoted much of his free time to activities such as cooking, aviation, baseball and of course, charity, working with UNICEF for much of his life. Kaye fulfilled his childhood ambition when he became an honorary member of the American College of Surgeons. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trailer for White Christmas starring Kaye and Bing Crosby

Danny Kaye passed away from a heart attack in 1987, after a life of many achievements. His upbeat and hilarious songs, acts and impressions became staples of American comedy, which are remembered to this day.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 18 January 2014
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