September 16th, 2005
Danny Kaye
About the Actor

Danny Kaye was a great American entertainer with an enormous creative range, encompassing dance, popular song, classical music, complicated verse, impersonation and improvisation, which melded together into an utterly unique style. He was equally popular and at home on the stage, television, the silver screen, and radio. Over the course of his career, Kaye’s talents were lauded as deeply original and American.

Born David Daniel Kaminsky in Brooklyn in 1913, Danny Kaye was the son of an immigrant Russian tailor. After dropping out of high school he worked for a radio station and later as a comedian in the Catskills. Known as “the Borscht Belt,” the venues throughout the Catskills were often a place for comedians and other entertainers to experiment. After his solo success in the Catskills, the young Kaye joined the dancing act of Dave Harvey and Kathleen Young in 1933. On opening night he lost his balance and the audience broke into a roar of laughter. He would later incorporate this into his act. Throughout the late 1930s Kaye went out and performed on his own—often with material written by his wife, Sylvia Fine.

In 1939 Kaye made his Broadway debut in “The Straw Hat Revue.” Enjoying growing popularity, Kaye won over the Broadway crowd that same year with his show-stopping comic singing in “Lady in the Dark,” in which he rattled off the names of more than fifty polysyllabic Russian composers in thirty-nine seconds in a song called “Tchaikovsky.” Throughout the early 1940s he performed night club acts, on Broadway, and to support the troops overseas during World War II. Though Kaye had appeared in his first film in 1937, it wasn’t until almost ten years later that his film career hit its stride.

As Kaye was already one of the most popular entertainers of his time, Hollywood spared no expense in creating movies that would best showcase his talents. Throughout his career he starred in seventeen movies, including The Kid from Broadway (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), and the incomparable The Court Jester (1956). In The Court Jester, Kaye displays the vocal talents which made him famous when he says simply, “The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true”

A strong advocate for social responsibility, in 1954 Kaye began his long-standing association with the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, and that same year won a special Academy Award for his humanitarian work. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s Kaye continued to work in the movies and in 1963 had his own television show. The Danny Kaye Show ran for four years and was an enormous hit, winning an Emmy in its first season. Though the 1970s and 1980s found Kaye less popular, he continued to be a strong supporter of UNICEF, and appeared in their short film, Pied Piper. Of his many charitable performances, his work for symphony musicians’ pension funds was the most popular. He raised more than ten million dollars by performing benefit concerts, where he was known to conduct “The Flight of the Bumble Bee” with a flyswatter. In one of his final performances, Kaye proved the versatility of his talent and earned rave reviews for his impassioned portrayal of a Holocaust survivor in the 1981 television move Skokie.

In 1987 Kaye died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California. An amazing actor, singer, dancer, comic, and all-around entertainer, Kaye was a Renaissance man off the stage as well, where he was a celebrated chef, a baseball team owner, and an airplane pilot, flying everything from Piper Cubs to Boeing 747’s. His deep and continued commitment to the betterment of the peoples of the world was an inspiration to all, and his intelligent humor created a style all his own that made him one of the most beloved entertainers of his time.

  • Cara

    Please, make the American Masters program on Danny Kaye available for sale.

  • Phyllis Thomas

    Danny Kaye’s style was very unique. He delighted your senses with his very clever and witty speech/verbage. Wholesome good comedic performances that brough joy to me and my brothers and sisters.

  • D. Grenke

    How can I buy a copy of the Danny Kaye program?

  • G.Peters

    Aaaaah! Dear Danny Kaye. My grandparents, my parents and my sister and I – three generations of our family LOVED him.

  • regina

    Where can I get a CD of the soundtrack: Mommy, gimme a drinka water!

  • Barry

    Danny Kaye cannot be duplicated, there`s no one like him; he was unique, I loved his wit and talent. What a loss to mankind when he was mistakenly taken. I trust he is with our Heavenly Father right now.Thank you Danny Kaye. BWG

  • Anna

    We,the fans, hope that you will put the program on DVD for sale. In the meantime, please air the program on PBS soon. I hope it will be soon. Thank You!

  • Eva

    I also want to know where I can get a CD of Mommy, Gimme a Drinka Water…any ideas?

  • Geoff shiels

    I just watched the inspector general for the umpteenth time and i still found it hilariously funny –danny kay was an extremely funny talented man and we will unfortunately never see the likes of him again –

  • Nicole

    Please make this available. Some of us were born the year before he died and only discovered him through a love of classics!

  • Kathleen Burrough-Wilson

    I would love to be able to purchase a copy of the Danny Kaye American Masters DVD to add to my collection. I fell in love with Danny Kaye when I was a little girl, and am still in love with him! I cried when I heard he had passed on, and still miss him immensely. His charm, wit, and musical talent (not to mention that mischievous twinkle in his eyes) can lift my spirits even when I wouldn’t otherwise feel like smiling. The “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” commercials for which he was a spokesperson inspired me even as a child. As others have already pointed out, there will never be another like him.

  • scottramsden

    what comic genious,I grew up listening to his great songs.My favourite was and still is,Inch worm.I believe his voice was on a record I used to listen to long ago called,tubby the tuba.I would love to find a copy for my little girls to grow up with,please help if you can.

  • Emily

    Danny K’s music & form of entertainment is sheer joy. It speaks of life’s simple truths and makes you want to bring out the good in things. Please post as much video clips or make them readily available.

  • Arne Tonnerich

    The Danny Kaye Show was shown for a long time on Swedish TV during my schoolyears. It became immensely popular in our family and we always had to gather around the TV-set to watch his antics and laugh at his great humour. I have always felt he was a great entertainer and I admired him also for his dedication for many good causes.
    I am sure that he still is greatly missed by many here in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe.

  • Brandon

    Danny Kaye was such a great actor that will be missed by all.

  • Ken Jackson

    since hearing him sing “Anywhere I Wander” when I was a small boy, to me. only one word is needed to describe this Amazing man… incomparable…

  • Katie White

    The first movie I saw with him in was with Bing Crosby
    When he sang Im dreaming of a White Christmas
    He stole the show in my opinion
    What talent

  • d. Taylor

    I’m looking for an LP that Danny Kaye made that included several stories for children. One story was called “Hot Cockaloram” which was the word for fire. Can anyone tell me where I might get this LP or anything with it on it?

  • khutah

    My husband and I are watching White Christmas, and are talking about how brilliant Danny Kaye was. I was a huge fan, and realize that I can even recall the theme song of his TV show, and the opening where he danced across the stage from the back. I was only 8-11 years old, but still remember it at age 53. Wish I could find copies of the show! A genius!

  • D. Myers

    Danny Kaye is my favorite actor. My daughter,age 24, has all of his movies. “The Court Jester” is a true classic!!! He was brilliant and is truly missed.

  • K Wyatt

    Please ! Please ! make the Danny kaye PBS dvd available for sale in UK. He was, is and will always be the most individual performer of all time, we love you Danny – you’re a legend.

  • J Atkinson

    An amazing talent,I have a new grand daughter and can remember learning and singing Hans Chtistian Anderson when I was small and singing them to my children does anyone know where I can get a download or CD for my daughter to sing to her?

  • Julie

    I just watched the movie, Just For You, with Bing Crosby & Jane Wyman. I am wondering if someone can confirm that Danny Kaye had a bit part in that movie. He was in one scene as a back-up singer on stage with Bing.

  • Linda H

    I loved Danny Kaye, Favorite “White Christmas”, but totally enjoyed his variety of Talent. They don’t make’em like that anymore. Good and Kind Human Being, and wonderful Entainer.!!

  • Freddie K

    Great person, but why dont they never talk abt. his greatest film Knock on Wood ? Cant find a place to buy it wonder why ?

  • bgates

    This tired and frustrated world needs the presence of a “Danny Kaye” to help us maintain perspective IMHO. Cheers, bgates

  • Nicole

    You can find free downloads of children’s vinyl albums, including Danny Kaye Tells 6 Stories from Faraway Places at http://www.artsreformation.com/records/. You can also download Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales and Grimm’s Fairy Tales told by Danny Kaye there. I too listened to these as a child, and was thrilled when I finally found them here

  • Kim H

    I have, for years, been looking for a copy of “Mommy Get me a Drink of Water” to purchase online. It is a touchstone for me from my childhood and I would love to be able to hear it again and share its wit and joy with my young nieces and nephews. I see from others comments that I am not the only one who has fond memories of that record. Anyone out there with the means to produce this? I am sure there are many babyboomers like me who would love it.

  • Jenny Lyn B

    Danny Kaye won a special place in my heart as a child growing up to his enchanting performances. I’m so excited to be able to introduce my niece to his wit and talent. I’m sure his exceptional skill as a performer will live on in the hearts of viewers for many generations to come. The joy and warmth he was able to exude on film makes him one of the most endearing performers I believe to have graced the screen …I only wish he were still with us; it was such a sad, sad day when he left us.

  • felipe gutierrez

    Long live the memory of Danny Kaye. A wonderful artist and a good man. Please go see “when the saints go marching in” sang by kaye and amstrong in the “5 pennies” motion picture available at Utube. It is Kaye at his best. To me one of the most beautiful performances ever, ever, by anyone. It is in fact the perfect performnance: it totally engages you, it makes you want to be there with them or wish you were one of them. Humans at there best, you could say.

  • felipe gutierrez

    Harmony is well defined in music. Mathematicaly so. As for the human kind , watch Kaye and Amstrong . It is at you tube: serch for “kaye amstrong when the saints go marching in”.

  • Janet Mary Barry

    Danny Kaye……such an amazing Actor…there is no other like him! I have watched his films several times over and the more I see him the more I fall in love with his character, personality, gifted charm, unique style, he was such a very very talented man. …and gave so much of himself.

    Taken from us all too soon…I had just turned 40years of age when my father told me of D anny Kaye’s passing and what a talented man he is… now 22years later, I have a huge colection of DK’s Films ,Music and a book about him..this is still not enough, why are’nt his films shown on tv why can’t we buy more of his tv shows.??????..i have a vcr of some short pieces from the tv shows and would dearly love to have more!
    Please Help!!!!

  • Cole Thornton

    During a speech to the United Nations, Danny began by speaking in fast, idiomatic and nonsensical phrases for several seconds, leaving the ambassadors somewhat perplexed, until he turned and looked up at the translators booth, and wished them luck in translating! Is this a part of the American Masters video? I have been looking for the clip, which I saw some time ago, but cannot retreive.

  • Chrisitne

    RE: DANNY KAYE To those of you who have requested the Danny Kaye album music of “Mommy, Gimme a Drinka Water”……I do have ALL of the original songs on the album which are digitally remastered, making for a WONDERFUL sound with less LP “popping sound” and bringing back such fond memories. I would be more than happy to share the music with you for free. I have also posted 3 of his songs from the album on youtube 1) Crazy Barbara 2) I like old people, Don’t you 3) Mommy, Gimme a Drinka Water. My youtube name is SINGSOW and my email address is: singsow@aol.com

    Please feel free to write me at any time : ) Please write DANNY KAYE on the subject title in your email so that I know it’s not junkmail. Thanks much, Christine

  • http://www.bags4you.sk damske kabelky

    OMG, this thing is so funny. I will share it.

  • david

    I’m trying to locate danny kayes movie, ” the pied piper” to buy or rent. Is it available? Thanx, david

  • Judith

    As I watch White Christmas I remember how much I enjoyed Danny Kaye as a child. They don’t make actors like him anymore.
    Has his television show been put on DVD ?

  • Janice

    Please make this American Masters about Danny Kaye for sale. I would love to own it and give one to my parents.

  • Fran

    Danny Kaye was one of the great actors of our time. I watch White Christmas over and over every year. I love him and Bing Crosby, the girls also, Rosemary Cloney and Gwen Vernon.

  • Cathie Harper

    Regarding the comment from Fran on 12/21/10 — the “girls” in White Christmas were Rosemary Clooney and VERA ELLEN, not Gwen Verdon. Get your actors straight for the next trivia contest!!!!

  • DKfan

    I was only 10 years when “The Danny Kaye Show” came on the air;
    And I was smitten… still am, 47 years later.. I still get goose bumps when I
    hear him sing a ballad like “Anywhere I Wander”… I have found his movies and TV
    on the web recently and have been really enjoying.. someone on the web said
    “watching Danny Kaye movies makes you feel good..” so true..
    I have loved watching him sing and dance and act and be silly and my heart sings
    when I see that mischievous smile; and the incredible red hair !
    It was all so sweet and wholesome and funny… he was the greatest entertainer of all time,
    in my opinion.. We miss you, Danny. Thanks for all the laughter and tears you gave us..

  • Nancy G

    I loved watching Danny Kaye as a child and now my 3 yr old daughter loves him also. WE watched White Christmas so many times we need to get a new cd. My daughter loves to see him dance with Vera Ellen. Is he in any other movies with her?

  • marsha alexander

    I am waiting for Jim Carrey to play him in the movies. Isn’t there a book on this most generous, witty, adorable, talented human being. Mr. Carrey could play him – he’s pretty close in talent if not a peer.
    I loved Danny Kaye, his wife’s lyrics – so much talent in just one guy. Still miss him.

  • Ed J.

    I remember him well, I used to wait for his weekly television show and watch it along with my mother when I was a child. Along with Red Skelton, he made us laugh and forget our troubles. Variety shows like these along with shows from Dean Martin and Carol Burnett are a thing of the past. Television has deteriorated to an all time low over the past ten years with cheap reality shows. Very few shows make you feel good anymore. I wonder if we will ever get any family variety shows again with real stars. They must cost a lot to produce, but I bet the sponsors would get pleanty of business to make it worth their while.

  • JJ Semple

    Make the Danny Kaye DVD available. Better yet, why not make the whole American Masters series streamable over the Net, much like Netflix does, so we can watch anytime we feel like it.

    DVD is a dying platform. Time for PBS to modernize its delivery capabilities…

    For Marsha: I, too, have often thought that Jim Carrey is the closest we’ve ever come to Danny Kaye. Some comedians don’t “age” well (Abbott & Costello), some, like Danny Kaye, are so universal, with their physical comedy, musical talent, impersonations, and improvisations (Chaplin), that they stay fresh forever. Future generations watching Knock on Wood and The Court Jester will be just as blown away as I was in the 50s & 60s.

  • Connie

    Danny Kaye compiled a book “Tales from Around the World” I received as a gift in the late ’50’s – it was a favorite. That copy is gone & I’ve searched for another ever since. It was a thick, hardcover book that included stories, poems, songs, and commentary regarding the different countries & cultures by Danny Kaye. Have any idea where I can find a copy???

  • sandie morris

    I cannot recall the last time a Danny Kaye movie was shown on TV. – Like so many of the people who have left comments on this forum – DK was an uplifting entertainer and as a child his films/songs transported me to a lighter world……………….yes, definately an amazing and original artiste.

  • Paul Ricketts

    I recently listened to the BBC radio show (hosted by Elliot Gould) about the Secret Life Of Danny Kaye and it immediately brought back all the reasons I loved to watch and listen to this great man. His movies were timeless and I’m glad to have many in my collection. A couple of things I wish I had kept were two audio records. One was Danny telling folk tales from around the world (Stone Soup springs to mind) but this record was broken beyond repair when I was quite young. I kept the sleeve for years in the hopes of finding another copy but it to has now been discarded. In the more recent past, I got rid of (and loathe am I to admit it) a 78 RPM record of Danny and Dena singing together. One side was mainly Danny (singing about Dena, I believe, and was titled “Little Child” or something like that). The A side (for me, if not in reality) was a nonesense duet (”Abba Dabba Whoop Whoop Bop”, or something like that) and was absolutely adorable. I discarded this in a move a few years ago as I thought I’d never be able to play it again. Once again, I was wrong and live in regret.

  • Dan Kirwin

    I’m watching White Christmas as I type this. My wife and I watch it every Christmas season. What a great movie and what a great performance by Danny Kaye!

  • Tom

    Just watched an interview with him from the dick cavvett. Show,not sure what year it was,but I remember him fondly what a wonderful man he was

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