Audio Documentary

On March 26, 2012 the BBC's Radio 2 aired a new documentary titled "The Secret Life of Danny Kaye" and narrated by Elliott Gould. There were new interviews with Dena Kaye, Shirley MacLaine, Glynis Roberts and more, as well as interview and song clips from Danny.

If you wish to listen to this documentary, I have uploaded it onto YouTube in 4 parts.

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

The documentary begins with Danny speaking and then singing "One Life to Live" from Lady in the Dark. Interspersed throughout the song are comments from various people. [The names of each commentator wasn't given, and I wasn't going to try to figure out who said what for fear of given a mistaken identity.]

“Well I would say he was probably the most brilliant song and dance man and comedian of his time. And I have not seen anybody in today’s time come close to him.”

“I think in the pantheon of great entertainers—particularly American entertainers—but with worldwide international appeal, there has never been a more finer, more varied entertainer than Danny Kaye. Comedy, music, dance, drama, pathos. I can’t think of any actor that had the range.”

“Danny Kaye was one of the most entertaining performers that ever performed in motion pictures. He was the king when he reigned…”

“My favorite, my dream, my hero when I was a little kid. And I went to the movies and I saw this terribly handsome Jew who could dance as good as Fred Astaire and sing as good as Bing Crosby. And be handsome enough to get the girl. There were no comedians like that. There are still no comedians like that. He was the best.”

Some of the songs that are included in this documentary include: "The Maladjusted Jester," "Tschaikowsky," "The Lobby Number," "Anatole of Paris," "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing," "Hans Christian Andersen," "Tongue Twisters," "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," and "Tubby the Tuba."

Comments in regards to his childhood

Shirley MacLaine: “Trying to understand why he didn’t embrace his beginnings. I think he was—I think it was a class thing. I think he was ashamed of the poverty. And therefore he wasn’t from Brooklyn. I think it might be more about seeming to be the talented prince rather than he who came from nothing. And yet he showed me his place. He wanted me to see the deprivation from which he sprang.”

Film director Paul Mazursky from The Danny Kaye Show: “Danny was ten years older than me. And I could tell right away he didn’t like to talk about Brownsville. I would look at him. He was never mean to us, never cruel. But he did not like to talk about those days.”

Danny Kaye: “Most of us have become selective, you know. And most of us can’t live with terrible memories so we manage to select the ones that give us pleasure. I have the kind of memory that remembers everything—the pleasant things and the unpleasant things. That in itself creates a balance, you see.”

Danny's friend Glynis Roberts: “He used to say the good old days are not so good. […] He lived in an immigrant almost ghetto in Brooklyn. And I think it was very hard earning a living. And he used to describe to me how he used to sit on the steps of the Synagogue after funerals. They would have to have one good coat they would have to rent in order to go to a funeral. And the next day his mother would sew it up again so that it was a good coat to go to back to the Synagogue next week.”

“He used to wear her wedding ring on his right hand finger. And I don’t think many people knew that actually. And I used to say to him, ‘Why don’t you wear a wedding ring?’ like most American men. He said ‘This is my mother’s wedding ring.’ He wore it on another finger. He always remembered her.”

Comments about Danny and/or Sylvia

Dena Kaye: “My mother was a official/unofficial work partner of my father. She wrote a lot of the material, for which he is famous, a lot of the songs that people refer to as patter songs—which aren’t patter songs at all but very sophisticated lyrics—that she was inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan. It isn’t just double talk. The double talk he did that, but a lot of the songs she wrote—like “The Lobby Number,” “Melody in 4F”—those kind of songs that were very clever would have references to Shakespeare and Greek tragedy. That kind of made a mark on who he was. I once said to somebody they were like the egg yolk and the egg white, they were much better together.”

Co-star from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Ann Rutherford: “He never blew a line. No matter how rapidly he had to say them.”

Dena Kaye: “He was a human being at home. And he would take his time to, what he would call, “flake out,” which would mean laying on the couch, eating licorice, we would make him bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches. He would watch television or listen to Dodger baseball games. I mean he was very, very regular. I mean, yes, there were things that he did that no other human being would probably do, which was he would put a chocolate wrapper on his front tooth and then part his hair down the middle and walk in this very crazy way. I think as a child I was scared of this character, but for a lot of people that was very funny.”

Pat Boone: “I noticed one thing that he wore what I call then ‘earth shoes.’ They were shoes molded to his feet, rather clunky looking but very comfortable and very supportive. And I thought maybe he had knee problems or ankle problems. And I noticed too that he sat a lot when he wasn’t actually performing, even in rehearsal. So I asked him about. And he said, very sagely, he said, ‘Save your energy till when it counts. I sit whenever I can, you should. I wear these shoes to save wear and tear on my legs so I’ll feel springy and good when the time comes.’”

Danny's friend, Glynis Roberts: “As lighthearted as he was on the screen, he was quite tragic off the screen. He was very insecure. He questioned everything about life. He could sit in the corner for hours, with his head in his hands, in the dark in a very despondent fashion. He was quite a handful as a friend. And I think he was quite lonely. I think he was very lonely. And he wasn’t even part of the mainstream Hollywood society, although he was. He went everywhere and knew everybody and had all these dinner parties. But I think he was very lonely inside.”

Danny Kaye: “I do not read a note of music. Okay? But I will sing you every entrance of every woodwind, every brass, every string, every percussion. Now the only way I can learn things is by hearing them. I can sing everything we do. We do Beethoven. […] If I want to start somewhere I don’t know how to say bar J or letter 163 or whatever it is. I sing where I want them to start. And we have a marvelous time. And we rehearse very, very, very strenuously.”

“I think he accomplished a huge amount and was aware of that and was very happy with the things he accomplished. The night he was admitted to Cedar-Sinai, which was the final night that he was awake, he held my hand and said, ‘There’s so much more that I want to do.’”

- Danny's friend, Dr. Avrum Bluming

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