“I Dare Say”

Danny Kaye, Films’ New Clown, Called ‘Greatest Pantomimist Since Chaplin’

The Pittsburgh Press – Sep. 23, 1945

By: Florence Fisher Parry

HOLLYWOOD, Sept. 22—Samuel Goldwyn has found a new clown. Young, fresh, original, at home in the idiom of his young contemporaries, his very pantomime an expression of the antic mood of youth today. Danny Kaye is, as I see him, the first true Pantomimist who has appeared since Chaplin.

The others, in between, have been and are great clowns, great comics, great gagsters, great entertainers. They have been song and dance men like Eddie Cantor and Georg Jessel and George M. Cohan. They have been great fools (in the sense that Shakespeare’s fools were great) like Jimmy Durante and Ed Wynn, Bobby Clark and Bert Lahr. They have been great kidders like The Marx Brothers, great teams like Abbott and Costello, Gallagher and Sheehan. They have been great gagsters like Bob Hope. But all these clowns have not been PANTOMIMISTS in the strict ancient sense. Jimmy Savo came nearer to it, perhaps, than anyone since Chaplin. A few of Barnum and Bailey-Ringling Circus clowns possess the gift, and a visit to that circus today will repay one a thousand times, just watching these past masters at pantomime.

But in the movies—and on the stage as well—there has been no one since Charlie Chaplin whose gift of pantomime so transcended script or gag that no lines were needed.

Until Danny Kaye. The boy is possessed of the ancient gift. He is a pantomimist. The gifts of mimicry, of clowning, of caricature, the COMIC GIFT, all are his.

Did Goldwyn sense this? Did he recognize in this young rather smart-alecky boy the gift that Chaplin had? Did he see Danny clear? Did Danny strike HIM funny? A piece of property to have and hold and groom and gild and stake a Fortune on?

I’d like to know. Because this man Sam Goldwyn has always interested me. Not because of the legend that has been manufactured about him, his anachronisms of speech, his temperament, his being “difficile,” his heady investments in pictures and star personalities, his fabulous successes.

But because I sense in him the rarest kind of native TASTE. He “uses himself up,” they say—he uses up those around him. HE WILL HAVE WHAT HE WANTS and God help stumbling blocks to that objective! But back of this feverish zest which is so mistakenly called “temperament” there lies a burning need to satisfy some pure basic TASTE in the man. He is an artist. He is a slave to that driving craving within him that cannot be assuaged by the spurious if the genuine is anywhere—anywhere—to be had!

Well—he has Danny Kaye. They tell me Mr. Goldwyn considers him the most valuable piece of property he has had for many years. Just as Disney sees, for his cartoons and pictures, a world audience that wants Innocent Merriment. Goldwyn sees in Danny Kaye his clown to dispense it.

I was sorry I got into Hollywood just a day too late to see what, they tell me, was a fabulous scene on the set of “The Kid From Brooklyn.” It was Danny’s last scheduled day in the picture, and they were shooting his entrance with a lion. The trainer had done a good job and was confident. The Goldwyn Girls had been rehearsed to run away in fright when they saw the lion. Everything was set. Gregg Toland, that peerless camera man (Yes, he had been on that very stage when “The Kid From Spain” was being made) was ready there behind the camera high on the boom. The director, the skillful Norman McLeod, was sure of his Take, this time.

But no one can afford to be sure of anything in Hollywood. For the lion broke loose from his chain. Danny Kaye did not feel at all like a clown then, and the Goldwyn girls, already rehearsed to flee screaming, needed no prompting!

“Do not move!” cried the trainer. “Stay where you are!” Instantly all on the set turned to frozen wax images. The lion, of course, was instantly subdued. But no one on the set will ever be the same again.

Now Danny is a pantomimist. Danny is a Clown. Danny is a Trouper. But Danny wants to Live Forever. So there was no more shooting on the set That day for Danny.

Yet I have the strong feeling that had Uncle Sammy been on the set that day, the lion would have known better. You don’t make any unnecessary trouble on the last days of a Goldwyn picture. Imagine Goya or Van Gogh or any other artist standing for a Lion messing up his canvas just as he was on its finishing touches.

Well Samuel Goldwyn feels that way about HIS pictures. He takes them hard. And those around him partake of that high tension, and because their boss CARES WHAT HAPPENS (and is there when it does) they find themselves caring too. Is that why, in a Goldwyn picture, you find that added measure of VALIDITY?
I had fun on the “Lion” set next day . . . I got some nice neat stores, too. One, from Gregg Toland . . . etc . . .

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