“70,000 Diners Club Cards Join Danny”

The Dispatch – Aug. 2, 1962

By: Harrison Carroll

HOLLYWOOD – What comedians will do for a laugh!

On “The Man From The Diner’s Club” set I watch Danny Kaye rehearse a scene where he stands before an IBM machine and accidentally leans on the master lever.

Seventy thousand cards spew out into his face.

As I arrive, Danny is standing before the machine. Pinpoints of light are flashing on and off all over the face of the huge board.

“You must be kidding,” I say to director Frank Tashlin. “You are not really going to have anywhere near 70,000 cards explode out of the machine.”

“Wait and see,” he challenges. “We have to get this in the first shot. It takes four men 12 hours to put all those cards back into place.”

“How do you make all those lights do that dance on the face of the board?” I ask a special effects man.

“Follow me,” he says.

We go out of the soundstage and into the sunlight of the studio street at the Columbia Ranch. At a spot approximately back of the IBM machine on the stage, we come upon a strange spectacle.

Paul Mertz, music department veteran at Columbia, is sitting before the keyboard of a stripped-down piano.

Ironically, it once was the practice piano on which Dick Bogarde learned to fake the technique of Franz List in “Song Without End.”

In addition to a battered keyboard, it now is equipped with many switches and levers. As Mertz hits the keys, impulses are relayed through hundreds of wires to make the lights flash upon the board of the IBM machine.

“We do this to rhythm,” he says. “Later we will translate it into a musical score for the sequence.”

“Why do you have to be outside of the stage?” I ask.

“It didn’t work inside,” he explains. “The click of the keys was picked up by the microphone. You have to hit the keys hard to trip the electrical switches.”

He illustrates. The click of the keys sounds like a tap dance.

I go back inside the stage. Danny still is in front of the board.

At this point in the story, he is in a terrible dilemma. He is the man who approves the credit risks of the applicants for Diners Club cards. He has issued one to a notorious gangster. Now he has to hunt down the gangster and get the card back.

Martha Hyer, who plays a Diners Club secretary and Danny’s sweetheart in the film, is watching with interest.

“How many secretaries have you played in movies?” I ask Martha.

“Who counts?” she laughs. “But I can tell you one thing. This is the highest paid secretarial job I ever had in a picture.”

Also absorbed in Danny’s rehearsal is comedienne Kaye Stevens. Kay plays the girl in charge of the cards in the machine. When Danny flips the lever and catapults the whole index in his face, she is the one (in the story) who has to sort the cards out and put them back into place.

“Do you have a love interest in the picture?” I ask.

“Are you trying to embarrass me?” she accuses. “In ‘The Interns,’ my love interest was a hairy arm which kept reaching out of doors and pulling me inside. In this film, all I have is an IBM machine. I’m getting a complex. On the screen, I’m afraid I may never wind up with anybody.”

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