“Elusive Danny Kaye Like Modern Merlin – With Ping Pong Bat”

The Age – July 20, 1959

By: Graham Perkin

You come to shriek at Danny Kaye and you stay to watch him closely, silently. Will he, like Merlin, turn into a horned green toad or disappear in a puff of smoke?

He pulls no funny faces (well, not many), he makes no jokes. But you watch him still for the genie has come out of the lamp, and Melbourne must soon know his magic.

He is such a quiet, quiet genie. His conversations seem to take place at close range as if it is a burden to communicate from any distance greater than the combined lengths of his nose and your own.

His hotel suite is filled with bustle. Someone is taking a shower and the steam belches into the lobby, people dash in an out, making plans and changing them. He opens at the Princess immediately.

In the middle of all this—or at the edges—is Danny Kaye, entirely surrounded by a cylinder of silence with a diameter of approximately 2 ft. 6 in. This is his self-created aura of quietness.

Inside his aura, he is an that are strangely at odds with qualities of calmness extraordinarily equable man with his world reputation for the fantastic.

This is not to say that he is dull; only that he is pleasant rather than uproariously and strenuously humorous.

Beloved Boats

The only fantastic things about him are his shoes. He says they are “ridiculously comfortable because they are made from a plaster cast of my feet.”

They are black, lace-up boots with pointed toes and shiny protuberances like built-in bunions. They are not very handsome, but Danny Kaye loves them with a deep love.

He leaves the leather-thing laces untied. It is then easier to step out of his shoes and wriggle his toes on the carpet.

At first, the shoes are as the well-known face. Their much part of Danny Kaye as very unfamiliarity makes an impact that the face cannot make.

It is a nose-dominated face notable for the color harmony between his complexion and his hair. They match, almost perfectly, light brown with light brown.

If his eyes were also light brown, the harmony would be complete. But they are light blue or green, unblinking to the point of acute embarrassment.

The whole face reflects its owner’s pleasure in living. This is consistent, for Danny Kaye states his philosophy of life in two words—“stay alive.”

He is very much alive whatever way you look at him. And he gives you the chance to look at him through a pair of grouped ping-pong bats, over the top of a cigarette, speaking, listening, relaxing, or any way at al.

“No Clown”

He stands no nonsense about himself. He is an entertainer, nothing more nor less.

But what about the quality of sadness that self-appointed analyst believe he shares with Chaplin and Grock and other great clowns?

“Oh that,” says Danny Kaye. “That’s a lot of malarkey . . . at least so far as I’m concerned.

“I’m not a clown. You can’t compare me with Chaplin or Grock. Sure, I clown around a bit, but who doesn’t?”

One room in his suite is set aside for a table tennis table. The table has not arrived, but there are bats and balls and a net on a shelf beside the fireplace.

“They are for when the weather is bad and we can’t play golf.” This leads to a discussion of sport, and, being Melbourne in mid-winter, to football.

“I went out for the football team when I was at school,” he says. He gets to his feet to act this part.

“I could run pretty fast and I weighed 130 lb. The others could run pretty fast, too, and they weighed 170 lb.

“You know what happens when a fast little guy hits head-on into a fast big guy? Well that was the end of football for me.”

Prefers Stage

Golf, says Danny Kaye, is different.

“In golf you can always find an equalizer, even if it’s only a handicap. With the help of a few strokes I can play a pro and we’ve got a match.”

He has absolutely no impressions of Australia except that it’s “delightful.”

“I like it here, but what do I know about it?

“I can speak with some authority about your audiences, with a little about several Sydney golf courses and one Sydney hotel and a couple of aeroplanes. What else?”

Danny Kaye was born David Daniel Kominsky in 1913 in Brooklyn. His father once sold horses in Russia.

Brooklyn surrounded him with families and friends from almost every European country. Oddities of speech and character were fed into his memory every day and he absorbed them with appreciative wonder.

He wanted to be a doctor. He still hankers for it and has an expert—and first-hand—knowledge of surgical techniques.

He worked in a milk bar, sold insurance and loitered around pool rooms until an old vaudeville artist introduced him to the summer camp circuit in the Catskill mountains.

All the rest has been entertainment and hard work. He has a pride in his theatrical achievements, but seems rather careless of his reputation as a film actor.

This doesn’t mean he despises films or his own part in making them. As work, he simply prefers the stage.

On the stage, he is a man of fantasy. He can be anyone to anybody simply by twisting his face, his posture and his voice.

Off-stage, the fantasy ends. He puts on an act for no one and hardly has to. Being Danny Kaye is enough.

- Home -