If you're wanting the shortened version on how others have described Danny, let me try to sum up the statements and information listed below:

Charming, elegant, artistic, intelligent, a genius, gracious, giving, funny, good listener, impatient, a perfectionist (although Danny claimed that he wasn't), volatile, unpredictable, egotistical, moody, emotionally distant, rude, formidable, and passive-aggressive.

In various articles and interviews, he has been described as:

Carefree, quiet, intense, moody, relaxed, charming, authoritative, a genius, a perfectionist, impatient

Qualities Sylvia Fine, his wife, admired in Danny:

Generosity, deep honesty, good sense of reality, remarkable command of facts (The Danny Kaye Story pg 125)

Other descriptions in The Danny Kaye Story:

Even-tempered, volatile disposition, gallant, frank

Quote from his wife, Sylvia Fine:
[Motion Picture. v 44. Macfadden-Bartell, 1955 pg 58]

“Mrs. Kaye puts it this way: ‘Sad? He can be the saddest man! He doesn’t just get ordinarily depressed. He gets absolutely blah! When he has a problem, he locks it completely within himself and wrestles with it. He doesn’t talk about it to anyone. I’ve never seen anyone like him.”

Click the categories below for quotes and info

Celebrity Comments     Personality     Performing     Popularity & Ego    Interviews     Children & UNICEF

Celebrity Comments (in alphabetical order by first name)

BARBARA WALTERS [journalist]
[Freeman, Donald. "Barbara Walters Tells Her Art Of Talking" Kingsport Post. Dec. 3, 1970]

"Enormous talent. Very moody. Can be most delightful man (but) he can turn you off very quickly."

BASIL RATHBONE [actor - The Court Jester]
[Rathbone, Basil. In and Out of Character. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1962. (pg 152)]

"Danny's success does not lie alone in his natural, God-given talents but in a quality that few beginners seem to realize is probably a determining factor in any successful career, WORK! Danny is a prodigious worker, with an aptitude for assimilating and perfecting anything he decides to accomplish. Danny can make on cry just as readily as he can make on laugh: the mark of a truly great comedian. And he has that indefinable quality we call 'class.'"

BERNIE ROTHMAN [writer for The Danny Kaye Show]
[Rothman, Bernie. Hollywood and Me. Greystone Books, 2006.]

"Amazes me how quickly he learns it [one of the songs Rothman had written], how confidently he performs it. Like he's been doing it all his life. The man's a genius, and he makes me look like one, too." (pg 84)

"When I split with my wife, Danny Kaye says some things--some very sensitive things--that help me out of my depression. Does he really mean them, or is he trying to console me during my time of sadness? I really don't know. Either way, I can never forget him for it. He makes me feel like a human being again [...]" (pg 131)

"Danny Kaye was basically a kind man, but sometimes he could be testy and stubborn. People expected him to be the sensitive, charming personality he played on screen. But if he didn't feel like it, he was a bear. I guess that's what years of therapy will do for you. Frees you from living up to other people's expectations. I had no personal expectations of Danny--just professional ones. Which he invariably lived up to. I always told him the truth. Not always easy." (pg 141)

[“On the television scene” Post Weekender – Apr. 6, 1967]

Diahann Carroll, one of Danny Kaye’s favorite TV guests, confesses that Danny is one of her favorite people. “He’s warm, considerate, generous and . . . well, let me put it this way,” she explains, “Danny’s the kind of guy who’d not only give you the shirt off his back, he’d insist on altering it to make sure it fit!”

DINAH SHORE [co-star]
(The Danny Kaye Story pg 117)

"Danny, I'm sure, had his troubles, but believe me, ours were worse. Each one of us--actor, technician, or stage hand--had a rough time keeping serious enough to get the scenes shot. Danny was a constant act of hilarious nonsense, and keeping a straight face was impossible."

JACK COOMBE [comedy writer for Danny's radio show]
["Day in Northbrook proclaimed for famed broadcaster" Northbrook Star - March 13, 2012 by: Karie Angell Luc]

“He was well read and we would have wonderful discussions, a very likeable guy,” said Coombe. “He was really kind of a humble man for all of his fame and acclaim, it didn’t go to his head.” Coombe kept dishing. “I don’t think many people know this but Danny Kaye was a great chef, and oh, he loved food,” said Coombe. “And sometimes in between gigs, he would cook something and he would bring it down to the crew and we would taste it. He loved Italian food, all sorts of pasta, he could do wonders with pasta, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken cacciatore."

JOYCE VAN PATTEN [actress on The Danny Kaye Show] - Visit this Blog for an EXCELLENT description

LARRY NIELSON [singer, artist]
["Utah Artist: From Ephraim To Big Time" The Deseret News - Sep. 27, 1972, by: Clint Barber, Deseret News Staff Writer]
Below is a wonderfully detailed description and insight into Danny from an interview with Larry Nielson, “a partner in The Art Brigade, a North Hollywood graphic arts company which has poster outlets in Africa, France, England, Canada, Mexico, and Tahiti, as well as throughout the U.S. [...] He sings periodically with Danny Kaye and is an art teacher and part-time traveler with the Osmond Brothers. He has pre-recorded for the Carol Burnett TV show, done background singing for a Henry Mancini movie, and does graphics periodically for the Partridge Family."

He describes Danny Kaye, with whom he has sung on tour, as a humanitarian, a perfectionist, and “one of the most profoundly talented persons I’ve ever worked with.
“He demands perfection from anyone who works with him.
“He has an air about him that is very relaxed and personable to the public, and people think they should react to him that way. But one time he demanded perfection from someone who didn’t deliver on the stage, and he fired him right there.
“He was totally justified in doing so because he is such a perfectionist.
“He’s a loner of sorts, because he is surrounded by so many people that he needs to get away from it all at times. But when traveling on a bus or with a group, he’s very open and his humor is fantastic.
“Many people don’t realize he’s a brilliant man. He has an incredible way of expressing himself, and seems to have a knowledge of just about everything.
“People constantly walk up to him and say, ‘Hi, buddy.’ He resents that, because they are trying to be too cute. He deserves his private life, but rarely has one.”

LOU GORMAN [former general manager of the Seattle Mariners]
High and Inside: My Life in the Front Offices of Baseball (c) 2008

"He was charming, gracious, giving, and funny and it was an absolute joy to be in his company."

MICHAEL G. LENARSEY [valet for Danny]
[“He Was a Butler for the Biggies,” The Palm Beach Post, April 13, 1979.]

“In 1958 Lenarsey became valet to Danny Kaye, who he says is really a very serious man.”

MacLaine, Shirley. My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir. Random House Digital, Inc., 1996.

“Yes, Danny was dazzling, but to me he was a flawed and often lonely friend who longed for understanding, awareness, and ever-widening avenues to express himself.”

“Everything Danny did was bigger than life and more expertly expressed than most mere mortals could ever hope to achieve.”

“Many people felt Danny Kaye was aloof—cold, tyrannical, and insensitive. I did not experience that.”


The following excerpt gives a glimpse into Danny (off-stage, off-screen). Of course, if this had happened to me, I'd probably be tempted to react the same way he did!
[Green, Michael. Around and About: Memoirs of a South African Newspaperman. David Philip Publishers, 2004. (pg 44)]

“Danny Kaye came to Cape Town at the height of his fame and beguiled large audiences with his rather innocent humour. At this point, I recall, he persuaded the audience to hold up lighted matches, creating a fairyland atmosphere in the darkened theatre. I don’t suppose anybody carries matches these days. This was a long time ago.
Danny Kaye was proud of the fact that his shows were clean and free of any obscene or suggestive content. His publicists said you could take anybody to a Danny Kaye show, from a child aged six to a little old lady aged 90, and they were right. Off-stage, however, the star was not always so careful. On a Sunday off, he was taken on a fishing trip in False Bay, on a big motorboat owned by Vic Cohen, a well-known attorney from Simonstown. Cohen was friendly with the Stodel brothers who ran African Consolidated Theatres and he often arranged excursions for performers brought to South Africa by that organization. The boat was big – it could carry 30 or 40 people – but not so big that you were unaware of the very rough seas that seem to be the norm south of Simonstown in the Cape Point area. Danny Kaye soon began to look very sad indeed. He left his fishing rod clamped on the deck and said he would go down to the large cabin below and have a rest. While he was there, some pranksters hauled in his line, tied a heavy iron bar to it and threw it overboard, causing the ratchet to fly into action. ‘A fish, Danny,’ they cried. ‘You’ve got a fish.’
Danny Kaye came leaping up the steps from the cabin, giving his head a sickening thump on an overboard beam in the process. He grabbed his rod and fought the ‘fish’ for a long time. Eventually, he brought his catch to the side of the boat and saw that it was a piece of iron. By now, an uneasy silence had descended on the spectators. The silence was soon broken. Danny Kaye broke into a stream of foul language that unnerved even the old hands. He used words they didn’t know existed, and he used them mainly to refer to those around him. It was a chilly ride back to Simonstown, meteorologically and spiritually.”

"'He can charm the birds from the trees and make blasé stars jump through hoops,' said one of Goldwyn's publicity girls admiringly. (The Danny Kaye Story pg 117)

From a 1964 article: "Kaye is an absolute perfectionist and tends to be impatient with others who don’t share this near compulsion. He simply refuses to accept mediocrity in himself or anyone else—but particularly in himself."

From a Sep. 1962 article: “Danny Kaye,” a not-too-perspicacious interviewer once wrote, “has a split personality.” Too which Danny’s wife, brilliant Sylvia Fine chortled, “Danny’s personality isn’t split—it’s shattered!”

From a June 1959 article: “He’s unpredictable. I know him better than anyone else in the world, but even I don’t know when he will be serious or funny."

From a May 23, 1964 article: “She Enjoys Exciting Role As A TV Casting Director” (St. Petersburg Times, By: Nancy Osgood)

[portion of an interview with Marilyn Budgen, casting director for the Red Skelton and Danny Kaye shows]

Marilyn has found both [Red Skelton and Danny Kaye] lacking in the “terrible temperament” generally accredited to such “geniuses,” she said. “When they don’t like someone I’ve chosen for a role, the most they say in criticism is ‘Where id you get that actor who can’t even say his name?’ Both Danny and Red have a way of walking away when they’re upset. Then they come back and apologize – which shows a certain maturity, I think.”

From November 3, 1967: "He thrives on work and his powers of concentration are such that he blots out everything else, often seeming distant and even rude to the people who have not been around him long enough to understand that he simply hasn’t seen or heard them."

"Nobody had to give Danny Kaye advice about privacy. The ability to withdraw was a tactical part of his system." (Nobody's Fool, p. 170)

"'He was capable of very black moods,' [Perry] Lafferty said [...]." (Nobody's Fool, p. 255)

"Newsweek did notice that off-camera, 'Kaye can be hugely rude but most of the time he gets away with such behavior because he can muster a staggering amount of charm . . . [he] can be formidable when he meets someone he doesn't cotton to. He simply looks away from people or situations. His crew sometimes calls him 'The Great Stone Face.' You can ask him a question he doesn't want to answer and he just looks at you.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 256)

"[Martin] Charnin analyzed his personality as 'passive-aggressive' [...]" (Nobody's Fool, p. 292) [Martin Charnin worked with Danny on the Broadway production Two by Two.]

Broyna Galef: "'He was a tormented man,' she said. 'Nothing was ever going to sit easy for Danny.' The nub of it, she felt, was that 'he was always going to tear himself up on some level. The Danny that he presented to the world and the Danny he was--the two personalities--it was practically schizoid. And he just could never reconcile them.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 317)

"'He never knew how wonderful he was,' [Broyna] said." (Nobody's Fool, p. 317)

"[...] Dr. Rosenfeld's reading of Kaye's depressions. ('He was successful--he was worshipped--but I don't think he ever felt he deserved it.')" (Nobody's Fool, p. 317)


"[...] in the New York Times, [Sylvia] wrote, 'Danny is a natural performer with an instinctive sense of comedy and what I think is an uncanny sense of timing. The written word is as nothing to him. He has to take the words in his mouth, eyes, and hands. He must play them, bend them, stretch them and cajole them--and, most important, bounce them against an audience before he can truly evaluate them.' [...] The article of hers continued: 'There's one place where his memory fails him and it drives Max [Liebman] and me to distraction. He'll improvise hundreds of swell pieces of business--and the next day remember only two or three.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 70)

[Georgia Gibbs talks about performing with Danny Kaye] "'He would walk off the stage kissing and grabbing me, and the moment we got off that stage he went up to his room, the door was closed, and that was it. When you're with somebody six shows a day,' she said, 'six days a week, from nine in the morning until twelve at night, you have to get to know them. None of us got to know him.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 125)

"'When I first met Danny,' [Max Liebman] remembered, 'he was more or less an inarticulate man before an audience. Every word was rehearsed.' [...] 'He used to hide behind his characters,' Liebman said after the Palace premiere. 'He doesn't have to anymore [...] he can charm an audience by himself.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 189)

"Danny Kaye did have an extraordinary effect on his audiences. He enchanted them and made children of many adults. He could restore their innocence, at least for a while, and along with their innocence, a curiosity and a sense of wonder." (Nobody's Fool, p. 191)

[Angela Lansbury talking about the filming of The Court Jester] "'We never stopped laughing,' Lansbury remembered. 'There was none of that moodiness he could have elsewhere, that abruptness, ignoring people.'" And yet he remained complicated. 'If something interested him, sparked him, he came alive,' she remembered. 'The minute that was over, he was closed for business [...].'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 221)

Popularity & Ego

From a 1964 article: "One of the people who has observed Kaye closely from outside the sinecure of his immediate creative family said of him: 'To understand Danny Kaye, you must understand that this man is completely self-centered. Everything he does, thinks, feels is in relationship to himself. He can be brutally, ruthlessly rude, and 10 seconds later completely charming.'"

[Georgia Gibbs talking about Danny's last performance at the Palladium in London. Red Skeleton was scheduled to follow Danny's performance.] "'Red was in a terrible spot,' Gibbs felt, 'because nobody would want to follow Danny Kaye. He was so popular he could have been king. Untouchable. And so Red was very nervous, naturally.'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 160)

[As Danny was nearing the end of his performance, he started doing a new routine.] Puzzled at first, Gibbs felt stunned--not because the routine was new to her. She was stunned because it was a drunk bit, and a drunk was one of Red Skeleton's classic routines. In fact, Skeleton's drunk was as important to him as 'Minnie the Moocher' was to Kaye. 'Danny never did a drunk bit in his life,' she would later say, and it was plain that Kaye's ego had grown to a vulnerable size. 'What he was doing,' Gibbs remembered with enduring shock and dismay, 'was taking the edge off Red's 'Give me another gin' bit. He was doing Red Skeleton's act!'" (Nobody's Fool, p. 161)

[After Danny finished his performance, he was supposed to introduce the next performer, Red Skeleton. Instead, Danny ended by saying, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. God Save the King." and the audience had no choice but to follow Palladium tradition, rise and sing the national anthem without Red Skeleton ever performing that night.]


"An interviewer learns the rules--never tell a joke to a comedian (he's heard them all). And don't be surprised if funnymen turn solemn. But Danny Kaye went beyond solemnity--he was wholly disagreeable. He has a way of fixing his ice-blue eyes on a person that is unnerving. Danny Kaye was a rotten interview." ["Interviews Among the Stars" Kingston Gleaner, August 15, 1985.]

[From March 23, 1958] "Kaye has been known to walk out on an interview altogether. His wife has been quoted as saying that he does this because he is self-conscious. He has been quoted as saying that he does it because the questions have become unbearably silly."

"Interviewers depicted him as not just an entertainer but an artist, one who was charming and even elegant." (Nobody's Fool, p. 69)

"He gave fascinating interviews as long as the questions were fresh and tried to hide his impatience when they weren't. He did not trade in the usual cliches or self-promotion. His responses had a ring of intelligence and candor that, in the world of show business, was not merely rare but practically exotic." (Nobody's Fool, p. 95)

"He could also emerge as quite sensitive, and at such times, the real Danny Kaye would seem to be very human, a performer stripped of ego defenses.

Whenever I did make a little fuss, they threatened to show me some of the shorts I'd made in New York . . . those very sad short subjects.

On the other hand, he could startle an interviewer (for a Sunday rotogravure, "PIC") who mentioned his overnight success.

I played every tank town in America, beat my brains out all over the world, worked in cover charge cellars, benefits, summer camps, vaudeville and every other form of entertainment for twelve years before I became a movie star. If that's overnight success, then the Punic Wars were just a skirmish." (Nobody's Fool, p. 95)

"[...] Kaye could easily grow impatient with interviewers whose questions were seldom original and frequently inane. At one time he had needed them, but now they needed him, and he wasn't always generous with them. Depending on his mood, he would either accept the reality of the press or simply disappear. He once had Sylvia tell a reporter that she was going to do the interview because 'Danny prefers to play with his daughter, Dena, rather than answer stupid questions.' Perhaps that was just as well. When he did sit still for an interview, he might go on automatic pilot and spew out the same old answers; or, if the questions were interesting, he might be talkative and charming." (Nobody's Fool, p. 145)

Children & UNICEF

[visiting a leper colony in Nigeria for UNICEF] "'[...] leprosy,' [Ed] Murrow explained, 'can be cured and is not contagious. Danny Kaye walked among them and danced with them. It was a long cry from when they were avoided as unclean and condemned to a leper colony for life.' In 1956, the word 'leper' still carried a connotation of contagious mutilation and the shunned, so this was very dramatic footage of Kaye mingling with these infected people in their village square and learning native dances from them." (Nobody's Fool, p. 228)

"Established as the UN ambassador to children around the world, he let the identification speak for itself. He was modest on the subject. 'The truth is that I have dealt with children most of my life and for a very simple reason: I somehow can communicate with children. I don't know how, but it hasn't been any work; it hasn't been any trial, and it has been a great source of pleasure, a source of enjoyment." (Nobody's Fool, p. 233)

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