Jinx Falkenburg Interviews Danny Kaye
February 6, 1949
Click Here to head over to the Library of Congress' page to access the audio version
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Tex McCrary and his wife, actress and model Jinx Falkenburg, were the hosts of a
radio show interviewing various people and chit-
Danny with Jinx Falkenburg →
This picture was being autographed picture of Jinx was being auctioned off on Ebay.
It is here only for your educational benefit.
TEX: Of course there may be those who will argue but I’d match our man today against any of the old timers for pace, for touch, for taste, and for an astounding range of talents that runs—or rather races—from tap to scat. Back at the Roxy now, he’s proving five times a day that he’s headed for the hall of famous funnymen…Danny Kaye.
(recording of Danny singing “Tschaikowksy”)
Tschaikowsky…I love Russian composers.
There's Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, and Tschaikowsky,
Sapelnikoff, Dimitrieff, Tscherepnin, Kryjanowsky,
Godowsky, Arteiboucheff, Moniuszko, Akimenko,
Solovieff, Prokofieff, Tiomkin, Korestchenko.
There's Glinka, Winkler, Bortniansky, Rebikoff, Ilyinsky,
There's Medtner, Balakireff, Zolotareff, and Kvoschinsky.
And Sokoloff and Kopyloff, Dukelsky, and Klenowsky,
And Shostakovitsch, Borodine, Glière, and Nowakofski.
There's Liadoff and Karganoff, Markievitch, Pantschenko
And Dargomyzski, Stcherbatcheff, Scriabine, Vassilenko,
And Glazounoff and Caesar Cui, Kalinikoff, Rachmaninoff,
Stravinsky and Gretchnaninoff,
Rumshinsky and Rachmaninoff,
I really ought to stop, the subject has been dwelt upon enough!
He'd better stop because we feel we all have undergone enough!
JINX: Oh, Danny Kaye, how do you do that? Now you’re right here. I’ve always wanted to ask you… how do you do 40 languages in 20 seconds?
DANNY: Oh it’s a very simply matter, Jinx. All you have to do is hold up 5 fingers and just point to all of them, you see. “There's Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, and Tschaikowsky, Sapelnikoff, Dimitrieff, Tscherepnin, Kryjanowsky.” Simple, isn’t it?
JINX: Oh it’s very simple if—
DANNY: Look, look, look, you want me to try to teach it to you? Say Malichevsky.
DANNY: Now say Arensky.
DANNY: Well there’s no problem at all. It’s just like hitting a serve in the far corner, isn’t it?
JINX: Oh wait, but you can do that too, can’t you?
DANNY: No, I don’t play tennis.
JINX: But wait a minute, you say, uh, how many words—how many Russian words—?
DANNY: There’s, uh, 52 Russian names, and I think they’re done in 38 seconds.
JINX: In 38 seconds. And how long did it take you to learn that? About a month?
DANNY: No, no, no, no. Oh, a month? We only had a month to open. It took about 3 days before we learned it.
JINX: For “Lady in the Dark”?
DANNY: Yes, Ma’am.
JINX: 3 days? And did you memorize this or—?
DANNY: Yeah, I had—
JINX: How did you do it?
DANNY: Well, it’s a very simple process, you see. What you do is put up one name and then you put another name up. And then you pick them out of a hat. And after you learned all the names by heart, then you start putting them in order. And then when you get it all together, it’s probably all wrong so you start all over. It’s very simple. (laughs)
JINX: What’s the fastest thing you say, Danny?
DANNY: What? In the…the…
JINX: In those words all together.
DANNY: Well I think it’s the, um, cumulative (big sigh) speed.
JINX: What does that mean?
DANNY: I don’t know. I just heard it the other day but it sounds awful effective, I think. Cumulative speed. You want me to do it for you?
DANNY: Look… “There's Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, and Tschaikowsky, Sapelnikoff, Dimitrieff, Tscherepnin, Kryjanowsky, Godowsky, Arteiboucheff, Moniuszko, Akimenko, Solovieff, Prokofieff, Tiomkin, Korestchenko. There's Glinka, Winkler, Bortniansky, Rebikoff, Ilyinsky. There's Medtner, Balakireff, Zolotareff”— (stops as he messes up on a name) See. That’s what happens.
JINX: Oh my god. You know how many you did then, don’t you?
DANNY: No. Yeah. Seven.
JINX: No, about thirty-
DANNY: Oh, was it thirty-
JINX: I was counting because you were using your fingers.
DANNY: If we had time I would do it all over again, but we haven’t.
JINX: All right. Well we had a very good record of it anyway. I just wanted to find out. Get an idea.
DANNY: Hmm, hmm, hmmm. She’s pretty, isn’t she, Tex?
JINX: (Jinx laughs.) Danny, now look. We’re doing you as man of the week. And if Time magazine were doing this and you were on the cover, which you have been, this is the way I imagine they’d look into research about you. And I have some research here and I better check the facts because you are the man of the week.
DANNY: Questions you’re going to ask me?
JINX: Well I’m just going to look into the files and find out if these things are true.
DANNY: Oh. All right. Fine.
JINX: Now it says here your first stage appearance was as a watermelon seed in a play at Brooklyn’s P.S. 149.
DANNY: Correct. I was at the age of eleven, I think. I was in a minstrel show and the scene was a backdrop on which a watermelon was painted. And, uh, there were slits in the canvas, you see, and all the people in the show stuck their heads through with their faces all blacked up and we were the seeds. The only thing that was peculiar about this is that my hair was very red, see, and my ears were white. So I, uh, kind of broke up the proceedings that way. (laughs)
JINX: You were the only blonde watermelon seed?
DANNY: Yeah. (laughs)
JINX: That was when you were eleven. So you really were a watermelon seed.
DANNY: Yes, Ma’am.
JINX: Was that a good experience?
DANNY: Oh, sure. Sure. It got me into the next grade. I didn’t certainly get there by my grades, you know.
JINX: Oh, all right. Well now that would check. We could use that item. Now, school. Quit high school at seventeen—
DANNY: Well, quit is not really the right word. Let us say I was asked to leave.
JINX: You didn’t graduate?
DANNY: Well, (pause) yeah, they kind of sent the diploma after I had left school, you know, with a little note saying “we’re sending you this, but please try not to come back.” Um… I think it was by mutual consent. There was a man called Dr. Elias Lieberman, who was the principal of Thomas Jefferson High School. And, um, I think he was worried with me a little bit. And uh—Oh! I thought you might know… In 149, we’re going back here a little bit now, but a girl came to me a couple of days ago while I was here at the Roxy Theater, and she brought me a class book from 1925, I think, and it was a graduation book. And under my picture it said, “This is the man most unlikely to succeed.”
JINX: Oh, from 1925?
DANNY: Yeah, and she—I saw it the other day and I’m beginning to believe it. It’s making me nervous. (chuckles)
JINX: Oh, no. No. You’ve certainly disproven that. But wait—I wanted to…on the end of the high school story at seventeen when it says you quit—or by mutual consent—you became a soda jerk…
JINX: …then an insurance salesman
JINX: …until a slight mathematical mistake cost his firm $40,000.
DANNY: Shhh. That’s been a deep, dark secret in my life. I used to be a checker in an insurance company. And then I made a mistake in a little policy and cost the firm $40,000. And they asked me to leave, but without a diploma this time. So, uh, if we could kind of skip that I, uh, I’d appreciate it. I don’t like bringing up those… (mock sadness) You know them… Haven’t you got another question?
JINX: (laughs) All right. Another question. You didn’t have to pay any of that $40,000, did you?
DANNY: No. No. They were covered by insurance, but I never got another job.
JINX: With an insurance company. All right, we’ll skip that question. We won’t use that.
DANNY: I hope the automobile insurance company don’t hear about this. I may never be able to get a dollar’s worth of insurance—(with mock sadness his voice breaks up) ask me another question, will ya, Jinx!
JINX: All right, Danny Kaye, two years later you worked summer resort circuits in the Catskills. And you did entertaining in what is called tummling or tumling?
DANNY: Tumling. Tumling. This, uh, is a very interesting question. It’s one of the best questions I’ve ever had. Uh, working in the Catskills—and I want to digress for just one minute—working in the Catskills was really the most important—one of the most important steps—in the particular career that I am pursuing. You see, years ago, Jinx, they used to have vaudeville and cafes and burlesque shows and vaudeville all over the country and there was kind of a spawning ground for young talented people to be able to develop. And as the movies came in, as the vaudeville theaters closed all over the country, there was really no place for young people to get started. And strangely enough the Catskills became one of the most important places for developing and fostering new talent. Now I don’t know whether I can remember off hand or not, uh, some of the people that have come from there but you’d be amazed at the people… Jan Pierce, for instance, the great singer. Robert Marrow. Uh, uh… Oh there’s any number of people. Moss Hart. Uh. Arthur Schwartz, you know. Larry Heart. A great many of those many people started in these kind of camps, you know. Dawson Canaan did. They come back to me as I recall them now but any time—
DANNY: Yeah. Tumling. Well that’s a different part of it. I just wanted to tell you about this. Tumling is when it used to rain and the people came up for a two week vacation, you see, and then when it rained they’d say “Well, we don’t want to stay up here. We may just as well go back to New York.” And it was our job to put on funny costumes at eleven o’clock in the morning and come out and go (makes gibberish noises and claps) and just carry on like crazy to keep people’s minds off checking out. This was the whole tumling thing. We used to fall in the pool with clothes on and run all through the dining room with the chef’s hat on. It was one of those great—We do the tumling right here at the Roxy, too, you know. (laughs)
JINX: And you’re paid a little more, too.
DANNY: (no response)
JINX: Got another question. All right. I’m just checking these facts, you see, for the story.
DANNY: All right.
JINX: Now, joined a traveling vaudeville troupe. Went to the Orient where was forced
to master high art of pantomime for his non-
DANNY: That was in 1934. I was with a show called The A. B. Marcus Show. And we opened in Tokyo and, uh, they didn’t understand very much English at the time. So what we used to have to do is go out and try to convey to the people what we were trying to do in the sketches and that’s where I (clears throat)—that’s my voice—and that’s where we originally started this gibberish, this “Melody in 4F” thing, you know. Because, uh, I learned a little Japanese and so I would try to do the whole idea of the sketch and throw in a Japanese word here and there so they could kind of understand what we were doing. And that’s how “Melody in 4F” was born and that kind of routine, you see.
JINX: Can you still throw in that Japanese word right now?
DANNY: Oh, sure. (speaks in Japanese) That means “good morning” in Japanese.
JINX: Well, you incorporate into, though, English, too, don’t you?
DANNY: Oh, yeah. Sure. If you say (speaks gibberish, Japanese and English). Jinx, you’re not going to say anything more about that insurance company, are you?
JINX: No. Not a word. (giggles) Next question, Danny Kaye.
DANNY: Yes, Ma’am.
JINX: Let me see… I’ve got to keep this straight. Maintains slapstick even in private life. Friends who telephone his home hear the answering voice of a Japanese house boy, an Italian cook, an English butler, or a Russian piano teacher and patiently wait for Danny to call himself to the phone.
DANNY: Well that is true. We were sitting right here in this very dressing room when
somebody called for Sylvia, you know. And she said, “I’d like to speak to Miss Kaye,
please.” And I’d say, (using Japanese accent) “Who calling please?” And she said,
“Miss Penn.” And I’d say, (using Japanese accent) “Oh no, so sorry Miss Kaye no here
now. (goes off into gibberish).” And she said, “No, no, no…” And a whole routine,
you know, where we did this whole Japanese thing and she finally hung up and said,
“I don’t know who’s taking care of him in the dressing room, but I’m going crazy.
I’m going to go over and see him rather than call him on the phone.” And my mother-
JINX: Then did you talk like the Italian cook another time?
DANNY: Yeah, well, it’s whatever mood, you know, whatever character we’re going to do, that’s the thing that comes out. So when you call me on the phone you better be very careful.
JINX: What can I expect?
DANNY: Well, we might do a Siamese, uh, Java dancer. Did you ever see one of those?
DANNY: Where they sing… (sings in accented gibberish)
(Jinx and Tex laugh)
JINX: Oh, Danny, I wish everyone could have seen you moving your neck. Your head’s going one way and your shoulders are going another. And your hands are sort of stuck out, too.
DANNY: This is what the man in the insurance company said. He said, “Your head is going one place and your hand is going another. You made a mistake that cost us $40,000. Kindly leave the building.”
JINX: Oh, Danny, I think we better get away from that insurance business. Now let me see. We’re almost through these facts. Let me see here. This gets very serious. Apart from theater greatest interest is surgery. Whenever he has time he watches delicate operations in Manhattan or Hollywood hospitals. Now I don’t believe that.
DANNY: That is quite true, Jinx. I’ve always wanted to be a doctor ever since I can
remember. And I have a very good friend of mine in New York, in Brooklyn, called
Dr. Weller, Al Weller. And I used to go and watch him operate a great many times.
And then I watched some surgeons here in New York. It’s a fascinating kind of a thing.
I think the only other business I really would have been happy in if I were able—would
have been able to have done it would have been medicine. I like it. As a matter of
fact, I’m rather good with sick people, I think. You know, if there’s an accident
or anything, I can usually take care of them. And so I thought if anything ever happened
in my home, I’d be fine. So now my baby, who is 2 years old, Dena, was sick for the
first time in her life the other night. She had a strep throat. And I walked in to
take care of her and I went absolutely to pieces. I just couldn’t stand being in
the same room with her. It was heart-
JINX: And even though you know all the things to do for Dena, you just couldn’t do them?
DANNY: No. No. I was helpless. I—I just… Sylvia took care of her fine, you know, but I just had to run out of the room. I couldn’t stand it. (quickly) Ask me another question, Jinx.
JINX: All right. Okay. Another question. Of all the audiences, you like London best. But now, that was because of your tremendous hits at the Palladium in London, but now that you’re here at the Roxy, how do you feel about that? How would you answer that?
DANNY: Well, Jinx, dear, let me…let me explain this very carefully because I want no misunderstanding about this if it’s possible. People used to say to me, “Are the English audiences any different than American audiences?” And I would say, “No, they’re not. They’re just as quick. They’re just as smart. And they’re just as enthusiastic.” Because we have always heard that it takes an Englishman 4 days to get a joke, you know, and that they were cold and reserved and unemotional. Well, I found that to be completely untrue. They are just as enthusiastic as an American audience. They’re not any better than an American audience. But they’re as good. They seem to have as much fun. And I enjoy working for an American audience, heaven knows, just as much as I do for an English audience. There’s really no great differences between audiences all over the world. I think if there’s something they like, if there’s something that they want to see, if there’s something that amuses them. Audiences all over the world behave practically the same way. It was the common conception that people had about English audiences being stiff that I wanted to clear up in people’s minds. But they’re not at all. They’re very generous, very nice, very enthusiastic.
JINX: The English audiences just needed someone like you to liven them up a bit, I think.
DANNY: Oh… (sighs and pauses) Here we go with the insurance company again.
JINX: No. No. Well, Danny, I know that you have something that I wish you would read. (Danny lets out an excited sound.) You’re at the Roxy. It’s probably the most important wire you have ever received, isn’t it?
DANNY: Well, uh, it’s a wire. I’ve got it right here. It’s a wire from a little lady named Dena, who is two years old and is my daughter. And, um, she loves music and she loves to sing. And the song she likes in particular is “Love Somebody,” which, when I call her on the phone, I always sing to her. So she sent me a telegram the opening day and it says, “Love somebody yes I do, love my daddy deed I do, love somebody yes I do, I love my Daddy and the Roxy too.” And it’s signed “Dena.”
JINX: Oh isn’t that—you’ll save that wire, won’t you?
DANNY: Oh sure. And this goes for me, too, cuz I love the Roxy. You know we’re going to be here about three weeks.
JINX: Good. I’m glad.
DANNY: Would you do me a favor, Jinx?
DANNY: Well, would you tell the people that are listening to us now that I really was very happy to talk to them and I hope to see them. And would you ask them to come and visit us at the Roxy so we can get better acquainted and we can talk to each other and, um, you know, have them come down here because I like to see all the people I talk to.
JINX: Good. They can come see you tumling.
DANNY: Yes! Oh, by all means.
JINX: Thank you, Danny.