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Fame     Trivia

The following information has been compiled from various articles and books. I have tried to list some sources, though some info is repeated plentifully amongst many sources. These pictures are not owned by me. They were captured from the White Christmas Special Feature DVD

January 18, 1911 - March 3, 1987

Danny was born in 1911, but gave his publicized age as Jan. 18, 1913. See the FAQs for more info.  

Birth Name: David Daniel Kominsky

*His last name has been spelled in various ways. In Martin Gottfried's book, Nobody's Fool (c) 1994, it is spelled "Kaminski" and the author claims that is most likely the most accurate spelling; however, he does not list any sources or how he knows this. In Kurt Singer's book, The Danny Kaye Story (c) 1958, the name is spelled "Kominsky." Many articles list "Kaminksy" or "Kominsky" while even a few spell it "Kominski" or "Kuminsky." For this page, I will be using the spelling found in Kurt Singer's book.

Hair Color: red (sometimes dyed blonde)

Eye Color: blue

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 152 (Dec. 16, 1941 & March 11, 1946), 160 (Oct. 30, 1960 and August 22, 1965), 150 (Dec 1, 1964), and 155 (Nov. 3, 1967)

Born and Raised In: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Parents: Jacob and Clara Kominsky

Older Brothers:     Mac / Mack


Wife: Sylvia Fine (August 29, 1913 - October 28, 1991) (For more on Sylvia, hop over to the Danny & Sylvia page)

Daughter: Dena Kaye (born December 17, 1946) (December 18, 1946)

The Fame

From a March 11, 1946 article:

"In six years of breath-taking success, these have carried him through, two Broadway musicals (Lady in the Dark, Let's Face It), two movies (Up In Arms, Wonder Man), 39 weeks of a new kind of radio show and numberless vaudeville appearances. This year, such activity will bring him more than $500,000."

"His popularity and nimble-wittedness were abundantly demonstrated in Manhattan's Paramount Theater, where he has done five shows a day for the past three weeks, at $20,000 a week."

From an October 2, 1949 article:

"When the announcement broke that Danny Kaye would do a six weeks stretch at London’s Palladium last summer, every available ticket was sold within five days. But that didn’t stop the orders. By the time the show closed, the management spent around $9,000 returning checks and money sent in by people hoping to gain admission. Top price for tickets was $2.60; but the inevitable black market ducats went for as much as $50 each. One party flew all the way from Istanbul to catch Danny’s performance; many streamed over from the continent."

"At the Savoy Hotel where he made his headquarters, a special switchboard hat to be installed to handle an average of 250 daily calls to the actor. His mail added up to 15,000 pieces a week. When he arrived in Glasgow 10,000 people met him at the station. He was escorted to his hotel by 55 bagpipers. At the end of his first press conference, the reporters, who enjoy tearing most actors to bits, sang 'For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.'"

"In London, Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten spent 45 minutes backstage with Danny. A cockney cab driver, complete with accent and waxed mustache, refused to take pay for his services. 'Charge Danny Kaye?' he snorted. 'Not me.'"

From a January 19, 1953 article: "One of the highest paid performers in the world, he earns between $500,000 and $750,000 a year—he comes into the Palace for a limited run of eight weeks. He is getting 60 percent of the box office gross, up to $40,000 a week and 65 percent of anything over that. The advance sale for the eight weeks had mounted to $250,000 last night when he opened on what happened to be his 40th birthday."

"Variety theaters, night clubs and fairs were willing to pay fabulous sums for glimpses of Kaye in the flesh. The motion picture companies insisted on his making personal appearances, since attendance skyrocketed as a result." (The Danny Kaye Story pg 169)

Here are some quotes and information from Martin Gottfried's book Nobody's Fool: The Lives of Danny Kaye regarding Danny's popularity and fame

"The Kid From Brooklyn had become a very popular picture. It was only his third movie, and Danny Kaye was already an American institution. As a matter of fact, from the show-business point of view, he was better than an institution; he was beloved, which meant that people were grateful to pay to love him. And that made him the number-one box-office attraction in the movies" (p. 118).

In 1948, when Danny performed at the Palladium in London for six weeks, he became an instant star with the British audiences... "He was unable to walk the streets without being mobbed. [...] He could not leave the theater between shows, not even to have dinner" (p. 142). He had to have food brought to him.

Winston Churchill visited him backstage while Danny was performing at the Palladium.

Danny visited with George Bernard Shaw and other British royalty.

In 1952... "Even before the opening at the Palace [according to Martin Gottfried, the American equivalent of the Palladium] in November--in the few months after the release of Hans Christian Anderson--he would play the Dallas State Fair, receiving $153,000 for one week. Not even Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis could match that, and at the time they were the hottest performers in show business" (p. 182).


Danny was always quick at memorization and reeling off words at high speed (December 1941). In The Danny Kaye Story, he refers to it as "a fly-paper memory."

He memorized "Tschaikowsky" in one afternoon. (March 11, 1946, The Danny Kaye Story, pg 80)

Sylvia on her husband's memory: "With his quick memory and perfect musical ear, he not only knows a number in no time at all, but is a great help to me. I forget my own lyrics. My own lyrics slip out from under me and I am stuck. Not Danny: he remembers every word, every chord; and after a pardonable husbandly dissertation on my inefficiency, we go on from there." (The Danny Kaye Story pg 85)

Dr. Irving Somach, about Danny’s memory: “I’ve never looked into the matter formally, but some part of a comedian’s brain must be overdeveloped. Comedians see more, hear more and remember more than an average person. In Danny’s case that part of his brain must be the size of a watermelon and as retentive as photographic film.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 102)

Some sites, when listing famous left-handed people, include Danny amongst that list. Although I was not sure where there was any definitive proof of this, I did find this snippet in an edition of Popular Science:

"In addition to a large and immensely valuable collection of ballplayers who are left-handed, the fraternity includes Betty Grable, Danny Kaye, the cartoonist Milton Caniff, and, now that her secret is out, that elegant snooker player, George VI's widow." ["It's a Clumsy World for Lefty" by Wesley S. Griswold in Sept. 1961's issue of Popular Science. pg. 223]

Webmistress’ Thoughts: Most of the time, I've seen Danny using his right hand for things such as writing, sword fights, etc. However, if you really watch Danny throughout his movies and television appearances, you'll notice that a lot of time he gestures with his left hand, not his right. Also, it's been known that years ago most children were highly encouraged (and sometimes forced) to use their right hand, despite the tendency to want to use their left. Even into the early 1900s, children were still taught to use their right. In the September 4, 1976 edition of the newspaper, The Bryan Times, there was an article entitled "Lefty's World" in a Public Forum column. Here is a portion from that article:

"Being left-handed is pretty well summed up by one who says, "The fact that being left-handed in this right-handed world is like being wrong when everyone else is right." When less force is used in insisting that a child who is naturally left-handed change to right-handed is recognized and stopped, energy is released to create a richer life for the left-hander. Who else is left-handed? President Ford is left-handed and so was Harry Truman, F. Lee Bailey, Danny Kaye, Charles Chaplin, Betty Grable, Babe Ruth, Cole Porter and many others. If they had been compelled to change from right-handedness to left-handedness, wonder how they would have fared in life?"

Gwen, one of Broadway’s most successful stars, first worked with Kaye when she was assistant choreographer to Jack Cole at Fox. “Danny was making one of his first pictures, ‘On the Riviera,’ and I was his keeper. Everything he danced in that picture, I had to teach him.” . . . “I think Danny’s a good dancer,” I said. “What’s your opinion?” . . . “I think he’s a mighty good mimic,” she laughed. “Actually, he refers to himself as the great faker. Somehow he manages to look more like a ballet dancer than a ballet dancer.” . . . “What’s he like to work with?” I persisted. . . “He doesn’t mind when you have to push him around. But when we get on camera with a dance number he manages to make it look as though he had invented the whole thing. As an actor he has great respect for other actors. He’s not selfish.”
[From: “Gwen Verdon Pays A Visit To Home Town: Hollywood” in The News and Courier – Feb. 13, 1965]

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