A garment center tailor's son, he dropped out of school at age 13 to become a clowning busboy in the "Borscht Circuit" in New York's Catskill Mountains. He later worked intermittently as a soda jerk and insurance agent while slowly getting ahead in vaudeville and nightclubs as a singer-dancer -entertainer. During the 30's, he appeared in several two-reel film shorts for educational pictures. He made his Broadway debut in "The Straw Hat Revue," with Imogene Coca In 1939. Early in 1941, appearing in Broadway's "Lady in the Dark," he stopped the show nightly with a song called "Tchaikovsky,'' in which he reeled off the names of 54 Russian composers, real and imagined, in 38 seconds. This type of staccato delivery of tongue-twisting lyrics would be his trademark in many subsequent stage, film, and TV appearances.
In 1943, he was signed by producer Samuel Goldwyn. The following year, he starred in "Up in Arms," the first of a highly successful string of lavish technicolor Goldwyn comedies that were tailor-made as showcases for the display of Kaye's versatile talents. Easygoing and personable, Kaye enjoyed enormous popularity in the late 40's, thanks to his sunny personality, broad pantomime, clever impersonations, and vocal virtuosity. He combined these talents most admirably in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947), a film that gave him the opportunity to caricature several different personalities. Kaye's popularity was even greater in Britain, where he enjoyed huge success with record-breaking engagements at the Palladium in 1948 and 1949 and made personal appearances at the royal palace.
In the late 50's, however, his popularity on either side of the Atlantic decreased when he began devoting more and more of his time entertaining children in developing countries on behalf of UNICEF. In 1954 he was awarded a special Oscar for his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people. During the Oscar ceremonies of 1981 he was the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Kaye made only sporadic film appearances after 1960. From 1963 to 1967 he starred in his own hour-long TV variety program, "The Danny Kaye Show," for which he won both an Emmy and a Peabody Award. In 1970 he returned to Broadway in the musical "Two by Two."
musician, he appeared from time to time as a mock guest conductor with
the New York Philharmonic and other symphony orchestras. He was a co-owner
of the Seattle Mariners baseball club. Many of his songs and much of his
comedy material was written by his wife since 1940, Sylvia Fine. Danny Kaye died in 1987
at the age of 74 of hepatitis and internal bleeding, the consequence of a transfusion
of contaminated blood during quadruple bypass heart surgery in 1983.
1944: Up in Arms
1945: Wonder Man
1946: The Kid From Brooklyn
1947: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
1948: A Song Is Born
It's a Great Feeling (unbilled cameo)
1949: The Inspector General
1951: On the Riviera
1952: Hans Christian Andersen
1954: Knock on Wood
1954: White Christmas
1956: The Court Jester
1958: Merry Andrew
1958: Me and the Colonel
1959: The Five Pennies
1961: On the Double
1963: The Man From the Diners' Club
1969: The Madwoman of Chaillot
In the Compact Disc department, you may be able to still get your hands on "The Best of Danny Kaye". This Cd has everything from "Ballin' the Jack" to "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts." I can guarantee you that most music stores will not have this CD in stock, but you still should be able to special order it through MCA Records.
*Please do not borrow this background or Main Page button without providing a link back to my Main Page. The Kaye background and button have been created by me and the image is from my personal photograph collection.*