DANNY KAYE BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Born David Daniel Kaminsky on January 18, 1913 in the Brownsville area of Brooklyn. He was the third and last son of an immigrant Ukrainian tailor and the only one born in the United States.
Danny dropped out of school at age 13 and ran away to Florida. There he became a busker; singing in the streets for money. It was around this time that he changed his name to Danny Kaye and traveled to the Catskills, to an area known as the Borscht Belt, to work first for a radio station then by performing comedy at camps and summer hotels. He quickly became a success and in 1933 joined the dance team of Dave Harvey and Kathleen Young. In 1934 Danny traveled to the Orient, where he learned to sing, dance, mime, scat, and perform professionally.
Back in the United States by 1938, Danny met his wife to be, Sylvia Fine, at Camp Tamiment in the Poconos.
In 1939 Danny made his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue. Later that same year he was cast in Lady in the Dark by Moss Hart, who had seen him performing at a nightclub called The Martinique. Hart wrote Danny into the play with an 11 minute part of a temperamental photographer who's mastered the art of tongue twisters. This was made evident by the now famous song Tchaikovsky, in which Danny sings the names of 54 Russian composers in 38 seconds. His part debuted on January 21, 1941 in the Alvin Theater and it brought the second act to a standstill. For this he received a $500 weekly salary and a billing on the marquee. Danny then won the lead role in Let's Face It, a show about army life with a score written by Cole Porter, Herbert and Dorothy Fields, and Sylvia Fine. Through the early 40's Danny continued to entertain in night club acts, on Broadway and to support the troops overseas during WWII, until Samuel Goldwyn signed him in 1943.
It is rumored that Samuel Goldwyn wanted Danny to alter his looks with a rhinoplasty, perhaps in an effort to create an all American boy look. When Danny refused, Goldwyn demanded that Danny bleach his hair to blond, which he did for a short while. Despite his un-altered nose, Danny's career took off at an extraordinary rate, starting with "Up In Arms" (1944) also starring Dinah Shore, Louis Calhern and Dana Andrews. Many more soon followed, some written especially to suit Danny's talents, including "Wonder Man" (1945) also starring Virginia Mayo, Steve Cochran, Vera-Ellen, Edward Brophy, Donald Woods, Allen Jenkins and Huntz Hall, "The Kid from Brooklyn" (1946) co-starring Virginia Mayo, Vera-Ellen, Steve Cochran and Eve Arden, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947) co-starring Virginia Mayo, Boris Karloff, Fay Bainter, Ann Rutherford, Thurston Hall and Gordon Jones, "The Inspector General" (1949) starring alongside Walter Slezak, Gene Lockhart, Barbara Bates, Elsa Lanchester, Alan Hale Sr. and Rhys Williams, "White Christmas" (1954) co-starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Dean Jagger and "The Five Pennies" (1959) also starring Barbara Bel Geddes, Harry Guardino, Bob Crosby, Tuesday Weld and Louis Armstrong. Perhaps one of the most well known lines comes from the movie, "The Court Jester" starring with Glynis Johns, Basil Rathbone, Angela Lansbury, Mildred Natwick, Cecil Parker, Robert Middleton and John Carradine, where Danny, as a newly knighted court jester having been challenged to duel, is forced to remember that the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.
In 1948 he took his one man show overseas to London's Palladium, where his instant success was described by Life magazine as worshipful hysteria. The Royal Family not only went to see him, but for the first time in history left the royal box and sat in the first row of the orchestra.
Danny's association with the United Nations Children's Fund began in 1954. A strong advocate for social responsibility, he logged thousands of hours as a pilot, a hobby he enjoyed immensely on trips for UNICEF. He was so dedicated to the cause that he once flew to 65 cities in 5 days. The United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cueller said at the October 27, 1987 tribute to Danny, he was the man who first heightened global awareness of the plight of unfortunate children throughout the world. Danny was so identified with UNICEF that in 1965, when they received the Nobel Prize, Danny was selected to accept it. At a ceremony in Washington D.C., Danny was presented with his own award, by B'nai B'rith, for his work with UNICEF.
The sixties saw a decline in Kaye's film popularity, yet from 1963-1967 he starred in his own musical variety show entitled "The Danny Kaye Show" which won an Emmy in it's first season.
Danny returned to Broadway in 1970, starring in Two by Two where he fell during a performance and hurt his hip. Despite the injury, he appeared for 10 months in the show using either crutches or a cane.
Another aspect of Danny's career involved conduction of major symphony orchestras. He took up the baton at the invitation of Eugene Ormandy and although he claimed he could not read a note of music, over time he raised millions of dollars for charity. Danny couldn't resist bringing comedy to the symphony, though, and had been known to conduct Flight of the Bumblebee with a flyswatter and lie on the podium on his back and keep time by kicking his feet in the air. Despite this, his conducting was well praised, with Zubin Mehta stating that Danny has a very efficient conducting style. Live from Lincoln Center: An Evening with Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic, broadcast on PBS, was partially responsible for the Peabody Award Danny received in 1981.
Danny Kaye was a comedian, singer, dancer, master of mimicry, gourmet chef, pilot, symphony conductor and UNICEF ambassador. He died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California on March 3, 1987 at age 74.
President Ronald Reagan posthumously presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Danny Kaye's daughter Dena on June 23, 1987 on behalf of his benefit to American entertainment.
Danny Kaye was honored with three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in Music, Radio and the Motion Picture Industry.
1961 On the Double
1959 The Five Pennies
1958 Me and the Colonel
1956 The Court Jester
1954 White Christmas
1952 Hans Christian Andersen
1951 On the Riviera
1949 The Inspector General
1948 A Song is Born
1947 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
1946 The Kid from Brooklyn
1945 Wonder Man
1944 Up in Arms
1944 I Am an American
1938 Autumn Laughter
1938 Cupid Takes a Holiday
1938 Money on Your Life
1938 Getting an Eyeful
1937 Dime a Dance
1935 Moon Over Manhattan