“Danny Kaye to Get Small Fortune”
The Deseret News – Sep. 15, 1953
By: Harold Heffernan
In a Nov. 16, 2012 interview, author David Koenig provides his explanation of the
incident described in this article:
"Danny was on the lot finishing up Knock on Wood, so Paramount begged him to replace [Donald] O’Connor. Kaye didn’t want to do it, but was also negotiating a second two-
HOLLYWOOD (NANA)—By being on hand at the psychological moment, when a major studio was actually “over a barrel” in its quest of a quick replacement for Donald O’Connor in “White Christmas,” Danny Kaye managed to close what will go down in Hollywood annals as one of the sharpest deals in the town’s modern history. Here’s how it happened.
With Irving Berlin’s already much-
This was a shattering blow and would have proved disastrous from a financial standpoint had the studio been unable to replace suitably O’Connor within a matter of hours.
Don Hartman, production manager of Paramount, remained up all that night trying to think the thing out. At breakfast he had resolved to put the substituting proposition up to Danny Kaye, who just then was finishing “Knock on Wood” on the same lot.
Kaye replied that he had made commitments for several personal appearances. He advised Hartman the sacrifices he would be forced to make to clear his schedule for “White Christmas” would run into a lot of money—too much, he thought.
“How much?” asked Hartman. The reply came back.
“I want $250,000 for playing the part and 10 per cent of the film’s net profits.”
Hartman finally pulled himself together and dashed off to consult Berlin and Crosby. Each had agreed to take one third of the profits as his reward for making the picture. The studio was to get the other third. Berlin was on the lot, Crosby at his ranch.
Berlin immediately agreed to sacrifice 5 per cent of his potential earnings and Bing, on the telephone, agreed to do the same. This made up the 10 per cent profit arrangement required by Kaye. Kaye’s $250,000 salary was much more than the price of O’Connor, but there was no other way out. Something had to be done at once, not next week, or even tomorrow.
So, Danny Kaye, who probably never dreamed his boxcar proffer would be accepted, found himself, in a matter of eight hours, tied to one of the most profitable deals any movie star has engineered since the dawn of television.