Who Was Danny Kaye?

I was almost five years old when Danny Kaye passed away on March 3, 1987. If you were to ask most people around my age, "Who was Danny Kaye?" I'm quite sure that most would not be able to answer that question properly. Perhaps they might recognize his name or face from the popular holiday movie, White Christmas, with Bing Crosby. Most, however, have probably never heard of his other popular movies let alone all the other amazing talents this man possessed.

If you're one of those people who have only seen White Christmas, or even if you've seen some of Danny's other movies, but you're wanting to know more about who this man truly was...then this site is for you. This particular page might also be helpful. Consider it a summary, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, on what you might find on this site.

Most people have the tendency to classify Danny as either an actor or a comedian. While he obviously did a lot of acting, and while he was certainly an extremely funny man, neither of those classifications do him justice. (In fact, it has been said that Danny did not like being classified as a comedian.) Consider the following quote from Danny in an article dated August 11, 1960: "I knew from the start of my career that I wouldn’t do more than one picture a year. I would do more if I were an actor. But I’m not. I’m a very specialized kind of guy and it’s hard to find material for me." Now that might sound like a rather puffed-up statement, and perhaps it is, but once you consider all that this man could do, that quote doesn't seem so far-off the mark.

Just what could Danny do? Plenty. He was an actor, singer, comedian, dancer, chef, pilot, UNICEF ambassador, a lover of medicine, an original owner of the Seattle Mariners, and a lifelong Dodger's fan. He was also an excellent golfer and ping-pong player. He was a man who adored children, and children always adored him.

People who knew Danny considered him a renaissance man and a genius. Besides the obvious role...actor...Danny also had a wonderful voice and was known for singing fast-paced, complicated lyrics. (Some people refer to the lyrics as tongue-twisters or double-talk.) In most of his movies, Danny always had at least one song (if not more). A Song is Born is one of his only movies where he does not sing.

He did not just sing in movies, however. Danny did many, many live performances that included many of his popular songs such as "Minnie the Moocher," "Ballin' the Jack," "Anatole of Paris," "Pavolva," and the incredible "Tschaikowsky"...a list of approximately 50 Russian composers that he would rattle off in under a minute! Visit this YouTube link to hear the song: Danny Kaye - Tschaikowsky (And Other Russians)

Most of Danny's movies were comedies, and he had a great sense of comic timing. His facial expressions and responses are hilarious with The Court Jester being the best of all his comedies. He was also a graceful dancer. In fact, the role of Phil Davis in White Christmas was actually supposed to be played by Fred Astaire! (Astaire was unable to do the role at the time.)

Danny also had a love for cooking, particularly Chinese and Italian. It wasn't just a love; it was a talent. People have said that Danny was an excellent chef, and he would often invite people over so he could cook meals for them. He also became a licensed pilot, and was eventually licensed to fly a jet. He flew himself to many far-reaching destinations as an ambassador for the United Nation's Children's Fund (UNICEF), where he would meet with a variety of different people and children. He was a lover of medicine, and always wanted to become a doctor. He observed many surgeries over his lifetime and had a love for anything related to medicine.

In the late seventies, Danny became one of the original owners of the Seattle Mariners, yet he always remained faithful to his favorite team, the LA Dodgers. Danny enjoyed golfing and ping-pong and became good at both sports. He also enjoyed conducting symphony orchestras for benefits and fundraisers despite the fact that he couldn't read a note of music! He had a natural ear for music and a natural beat.

Perhaps Danny's name is not as well known today as others from his time. For instance, more young people might recognize the Three Stooges, Jerry Lewis, Laurel & Hardy, or Abbott & Costello before recognizing the name Danny Kaye. However, during the first half of the 20th century, Danny Kaye was extremely popular. He was a big name, a person who was able to rake in far more money than the likes of Jerry Lewis & Dean Martin, who were just as popular during the late 40s and early 50s. He took London by storm and created an immense British fan base. In fact, when he performed at the Palladium in London, he wasn't able to leave the theater without being mobbed!

I will admit that even I was unaware of the extent of Danny's fame until I started reading up on the man. As a young girl, I fell in love with The Court Jester. I started watching more of his movies. I adored Danny, but as a young child I had no means of my own to find out anything more about this person I loved watching. As I got older, I still didn't know the extent of his fame because I usually didn't see or hear about Danny in any other way, only from the movies my parents had shown me. I saw the Three Stooges on TV constantly. Jerry Lewis was still alive doing MDA telethons each year. But Danny's name rarely came up in the media. Naturally, I assumed that he was never that famous. How wrong I was. Only after reading and researching, did I truly have any glimpse as to just how famous this man was during his time.

It is my hope that more people find a love and joy for Danny and the many things that he brought to the world. If all you've seen is White Christmas, please...do yourself a favor...and go watch The Court Jester. You'll soon see just how much Danny was truly capable of!

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