Singer, Kurt. The Danny Kaye Story. New York: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1958.
various articles listed as needed throughout the biography
– The Early Years –
David Daniel Kominsky-
Before Danny's mother passed away in 1927 when he was only fourteen, she was heavily involved in Danny's life. Kurt Singer describes it like this: "[...] his mother never relaxed her vigil. She insisted that her sons listen to her. She told Danny what to wear, supervised his manners and code of behavior and required an accounting of every hour of the day and evening." She was curious about his school work, who he was hanging around with, what he was doing. ‘“Mother was a wise woman,” says Danny Kaye. Mother Kominsky was more interested in Danny’s being a great man, noble, learned, profound, kind and gracious, than in his being a rich man. She saw in Danny a dreamer.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 34) As for his father, Danny said, “He was a great man who always understood me emotionally and let me grow in my own way. In later years he never opposed my career, which must have often seemed foolish and impractical to him. On the other hand, Dad was a great comic himself, so maybe I’m just a little splinter off a great block.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 35)
Danny attended Thomas Jefferson High School where he participated in baseball, basketball,
and swimming. He “found baseball, basketball and swimming were sports well adapted
to his lean, lengthening frame. He worked hard at sports knowing that […] he should
make use of every muscle in his body. The hours in the gym and on the field helped
him to build sinewy strength, and developed his inordinately fine coordination and
sense of timing.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 38) In one article, Danny explained, “I
went out for the football team when I was at school. 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-
Some time after his mother passed away, Danny started looking around for some work,
feeling obligated to help the family in some way, to compensate for her death. His
first job was working for Dr. Samuel Fine, a dentist in Danny's Brooklyn neighborhood.
“The idea of lessening people’s pains appealed to him, and Clara’s desire for him
to be a doctor kept swimming through his mind.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 42) However,
Danny was fired after his curiosity got the best of him; he was found using one of
the dental drills on some woodwork. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 43) Little did Danny
know that Dr. Samuel Fine was to be his future father-
He had a few other jobs during the teen years. "‘For a time I worked as a soda jerk,’ shudders Danny, ‘a job which I loathed and from which I was soon, shall we say, relieved.’” After that he tried working as an automobile appraiser. He lasted 10 months and lost the company $40,000. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 44)"I misjudged a problem of simple addition," Danny said in an article. As a result of that mistake, he was shadowed for two months by some detectives the company had hired. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 44)
– The Thirties –
The Borscht Circuit
Danny's first real job in entertainment was at White Roe Lake in New York on the "borscht circuit." Danny explained, "Then I became an entertainer in the summer camps of the Catskills near New York. I waited on tables, took part in plays and musicals put on by a stock company. I did this for five seasons, starting at $250 (room and board) and worked up to $1,000. During the winter, I lived, but barely, on what I made in the summer, and spent long hours resting outside production offices." () During his fifth season, a dancing duo, Dave Harvey and Kathleen Young, decided they needed a third performer and gave Danny a little dance training. They became The Three Terpsichoreans. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 52) "Dave, Kathleen and I made up an act, tried it out at camp, and it clicked." () At one point during a performance “Danny was to twirl to the girl and romantically kiss her hand. Twirl he did, but the gyration ended in a wobble. He caught himself, fell off balance again—and fell flat on the floor.” The audience loved it and broke into laughter and applause. Dave Harvey whispered to him: “They love it—don’t get up.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 52)
At one performance the trio was approached by A. B. Marcus, owner and manager of
a traveling road show. He offered to take Dave and Kathleen to China with his show,
but Marcus wasn’t offering for Danny to come. He didn’t think Danny was funny. (Even
after Danny reached fame, he didn't think he was funny.) Dave and Kathleen refused
to go anywhere without Danny. “Up to this day it has meant a lot to know such loyalty,”
Danny said. The three joined Marcus' show as members of his “La Vie Paree, a troupe
of about seventy-
It was in Japan, where the audiences did not understand English, that Danny started
telling stories in pantomime, making faces, and launching “into scat-
Struggling to Find Work
Once again unemployed Danny struggled to find work. Kurt Singer said, “Danny lost weight because of his anxieties. His temper was short; his voice rasped. He was an unhappy youngster overly plagued with dreams and underequipped with patience.” He “hounded” agents and received sporadic one-
During the early months of 1939, Danny met up with Nat Lichtman, whom he had known from working the borscht circuit. What follows are two different takes on the next events.
According to Kurt Singer's The Danny Kaye Story, Danny wanted Lichtman to view some
new routines he had been working on. Lichtman told him he was on his way to see Max
Liebman, who was casting for a new show, Sunday Night Revue, and he invited Danny
to join him. Max Liebman had seen Danny before when he was scouting for entertainers
at a “fifth rate” night club. He had been amused by Danny’s antics and had made a
mental note that maybe he could use this guy later. Seeing Danny suddenly appear
with Nat Lichtman, Liebman thought he could squeeze Danny into the Sunday Night Revue.
He hired him on the spot and also hired a young woman, Sylvia Fine, as his pianist
and song writer. (pg 65-
On the other hand, according to author David Koenig's detailed research and interviews,
Danny was one of the actors that Nat Lichtman had gathered for his revue, Sunday
Night Varieties. A young lady by the name of Sylvia Fine met with Lichtman to personally
audition some of her material. He loved it and added her to the revue. It was here
that Danny and Sylvia first met. Lichtman's revue did not last very long, but one
thing had been accomplished: Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine had met. Sylvia called up
Max Liebman, whom she had worked with previously, and told him about Danny's talent.
(Danny Kaye: King of Jesters pg 38-
In any case, it was during Sunday Night Varieties that Danny first met Sylvia, his future wife.
For the complete story on how Danny and Sylvia met, please go to .
Sunday Night Revue folded quickly, but it brought Danny and Sylvia together. They
joined Max Liebman at Camp Tamiment in Pennsylvania where they worked on a new material,
which would eventually be taken to Broadway in the form of Straw Hat Revue. It was
in Straw Hat Revue that "Anatole of Paris" was first performed by Danny. The show
was a success at Camp Tamiment and moved to Broadway in the fall for a ten-
– The Forties –
The catalyst for Danny's big break was his appearance at a New York night club, La Martinique, where he was signed on for $250 a week. With the last of their money, Danny purchased a new tuxedo. "Then the awful thing happened. The customers showed clearly that they were not amused. For Danny this was the final flop that bruised his soul; he sought the easy way out and asked the management to release him." () The manager refused arguing the next audience would be different, too much money had been spent on this already, and there was no one to replace Danny for the midnight show. For the next hour, the manager, the night club's publicity manager Eddie Dukoff, and Sylvia gave Danny a pep talk and encouraged him to go out for the next show. They were right. The next audience was different, and Danny was a hit. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 76-
Tschaikowsky and "Lady in the Dark"
Moss Hart first saw Danny at La Martinique and was so impressed that he wrote a part for Danny in Kurt Weill's Broadway show Lady in the Dark starring Gertrude Lawrence. (, The Danny Kaye Story pg 79) The show-
There developed an unwanted competition between the two songs, which left an unpleasant
situation. It placed “a great strain on our nerves,” as Danny put it. (The Danny
Kaye Story pg 81) One particular night, while Danny was singing, he noticed the audience’s
attention was not entirely on him. He glanced over his shoulder and found Gertrude
Lawrence nonchalantly waving her big red scarf. “It was a good-