“Danny Kaye Comedy High Spot Of Kind Public Now Seeks”

St. Petersburg Times – Dec. 16, 1941

By: John Ferris

NEW YORK—(Wide World Service)—The sudden transition from a state of affairs, known as a national emergency, to one of warfare is not likely to have any immediate effect on the Broadway theater.

For it should be noted that the theater, while successfully presenting plays like “The Wookey” and “Watch on the Rhine” which have shown an awareness of the international situation, has also found that the public, worried over developments or indifferent to them, has been eager to laugh, and that musicals like “Lady in the Dark,” “Best Foot Forward,” “Son’s O’ Fun,” “Hellzapoppin,” “Let’s Face It,” and “High Kickers,” and comedies like “Junior Miss,” “Life With Father,” “Claudia” and “Arsenic and Old Lace,” will pack the playhouses.

The British found out early in the war that people like to laugh through bombs fall, and so it may be assumed that whatever happens here people will continue to flock to see Danny Kaye and his inexpressibly comic doings in “Let’s Face It,” the Vinton Freedley hit.

Mr. Kaye is singled out here for particular consideration because he appears as an individual to be about the funniest thing on Broadway at this time. Once you see and hear him you will never forget the movement of his hands, a shrug of his shoulders, his look of innocence, his voice and a kind of impishness which is his alone.

Danny is a new product in the American comic vein but it would be as futile to probe into his comic origins as it would be to try to describe his singing of the “Melody in 4-F” which this reporter regards as one of the major achievements on the stage today.

He was born in Brooklyn 29 years ago next month and named David Daniel Kominski and he has been in show business for 11 years. He has played in every large European city, as well as Japan, the Philippines, Siam, China, and Singapore.

The “Melody in 4-F” has to be heard to be believed. The song was written by Danny’s wife, Sylvia Fine Kaye, and actually contains only 35 words. The rest consists of what Danny calls scat singing, gibberish and pantomime.

It recounts the life of a draftee from the passage of the selective service law to the induction of the man into the Army. Danny says one critic described it as a kind of Arabic double talk which slipped into triple talk, back into double talk and then into single talk until the whole thing became a mad confusion.

When Danny tries to explain the song and as he interfuses his exposition with parts of the song, he becomes, quite unconsciously, a sort of comic Stokowski, using his hands masterfully and talking in much the same manner as the orchestra conductor talks when he takes apart the virtues of the Back Pascaglia in C Minor and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and other Back works.

The night “Let’s Face It” opened in Boston, the audience response was tremendous. Danny was shocked. In his dressing room after he had taken his last bows he had a few reflective minutes. Something like a bombshell had exploded in his mind. He kept asking himself what he could ever do in the future to match this song. He is still wondering, and still of the conviction that he can never surpass it.

His reaction was not unnatural. Last season when he played in “Lady in the Dark” he sang—in 38 seconds—the now famous song made up of the names of 54 Russian composers. People told him veterans could not remember anyone having stopped a show in less than a minute. Danny’s number did just that. Actually, he says, he could sing the song even fast, but he has to project his voice to the balcony and that requires lots of effort.

His work in “Let’s Face It,” he says, is exhausting although the audience never would suspect it. But Danny points out that he is on the stage for two hours.

He is a quick memorizer and always has had a knack for reeling off words at high speed. He is 6 feet tall, weight 152 pounds, likes to play ball and doesn’t drink. If he weren’t in a hit show, he says, he would run south this winter and train with the Brooklyn Dodgers a few weeks.

Brooklyn is proud of Danny. A few weeks ago the student council of the east New York junior high school which he attended gave him a special certificate of merit for his work in the theater.

He has no special desire to go to Hollywood, mainly because he makes enough money now. If he made more, he says, he would have to hand it over for taxes anyhow, and he prefers to see his audiences.

And audiences certainly prefer to see him.

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