My Theories:
Danny's Depression, Moodiness, Ego, and Rudeness

The following is ONLY speculation and theory!
This is only one fan's thoughts after reading through two biographical books and over 120 articles.
It is only speculation and not fact!

It is with Martin Gottfried's book, Nobody's Fool, (and possibly Michael Freedland's book, The Secret Life of Danny Kaye, though I have not read it) that one gathers the most information regarding the darker side of Danny. Gottfried speaks about the dark, depressive moods Danny would experience (witnessed by Perry Lafferty, for example), and he quotes from a variety of acquaintances and associates who spoke of Danny's apparent ego and rudeness. It is mainly from this book that one gets a fuller view of the fact that Danny dealt with a lot of moodiness and depression.

There IS one mention of this topic in an October 1958 article when describing Danny: "on top of the world one minute, miserable the next."

Did Danny Say Anything...?
The only quotes so far that might be related in any way to this topic are as follows:

“Heaven knows I have faults. Lots of them. But inner things are a person’s own private business.” [From May 9, 1954]

“Yeah, I’m happy most of the time. Oh, sure, I’ve got some emotional problems, but who hasn’t?” [From March 23, 1958]

“I realize that deep inside anyone may have certain contradictory, possibly undesirable qualities. But you accept that, adjust and don’t let it hurt you.” [From Dec. 13, 1970]

[speaking to a reporter about a rehearsal for The Danny Kaye Show] “It was a lousy rehearsal. I was down, so everything was down. What I feel inside is always reflected in the show.” [From December 8, 1964]

And it is interesting to note that in Kurt Singer's The Danny Kaye Story Danny had this to say about his behavior before performances: “[…] I am more relaxed when I get away and am doing something. Before each performance I often have a sort of manic-depressive mood. I snap at my friends. To get out from under these malevolent influences, I sing, or dance, or stir up horseplay—anything to keep occupied. I find myself whistling like mad, and the more nervous I get the more I whistle.” (The Danny Kaye Story pg 101)

If Gottfried's book can be taken as truth, a person might be tempted to not like this man named Danny Kaye. Someone might be tempted to say, "Sure, he was a talented performer, but he was egotistical and moody. He could be callous and rude to others. Why would I want to like this man or watch his films if that's the way he acted?"

First of all, let's remember...we are all human. None of us are perfect. We all have a dark side, qualities within us that are not good, qualities that we would rather forget. Danny obviously had some bad qualities. He had his faults. He admitted as much in a May 9, 1954 article: “Heaven knows I have faults. Lots of them." Does that negate the fact that he was an excellent performer? Does that make his performances less entertaining? No. His performances are what they are--brilliant and hilarious!

Second, I believe that everybody acts a certain way for a reason. Many things contribute to our personality and our current characteristics and actions. If Danny was egotistical and moody, dealing often with bouts of depression...why?

That is what this page is for... Let's try to answer the "Why?"

Egotism and Depression
Others have speculated and claimed that Danny was manic depressive or bipolar, and I, for one, agree with those people. Again, if Gottfried's book is to be believed then Danny had moments when he was way up and moments when he was completely down.

Gottfried, in his book, writes the following:

"Torre [a New York television columnist, "whose article appeared on February 11, 1957"] also referred to the 'spells of moodiness, which prompt him to shut himself off from everybody and sit in gloomy meditation . . . he's been known to strike a subacid pose within seconds after he'd been on a laughing binge.' If that suggested the possibility of a manic-depressive pattern, in all his years of psychoanalysis, Kaye does not seem to have been diagnosed as suffering from it." (p. 233)

First, as far as I know that is true...there has never been any documented source saying that Danny did indeed have manic depression. There have been other sources (other biographies of other people) where it is mentioned that Danny did visit with a psychiatrist--sometimes more than once a day [McBride, Joseph. Hawks on Hawks. 1982.]. Was he ever diagnosed with this condition? Let's consider both answers:

If he was diagnosed, why was it never mentioned by anyone? -- Mental illnesses are more acceptable and prevalent in today's society. More is known about depression and anxiety today; and more people, especially celebrities, have come forward to speak about it. This has allowed those dealing with depression and anxiety to feel more comfortable about their disorders and not be afraid to admit to others that they are dealing with certain conditions. While it still might be hard for some, it is certainly easier living with depression and anxiety today. In the past, there was a certain stigma surrounding mental illness. And it was more common back then for people with mental illnesses to be hospitalized, whereas today it is more common to prescribe medicine and/or therapy. It would certainly be understandable if someone, especially someone with Danny's fame, did not want the public--or anyone else--to find out.

If he was not diagnosed, why not? -- While manic depression was one of the earliest forms of depression and anxiety disorders to be discovered, it was still a new area, even during the middle of the 20th century. Medical information regarding depression has greatly increased, and today doctors are so much more aware of the details and nuances of depression. Treatment has greatly improved, too. Today we have a variety of medications and therapies that help those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Was it, perhaps, not as obvious back then that Danny suffered from this condition? Was it not as obvious to doctors? How much information did they have? Only a full historical study would give an accurate answer. I can say, however, that even with a vast store of medical knowledge, there are times when depression and anxiety disorders can be hard to diagnose or pinpoint. I, myself, suffer from an anxiety disorder which took two years to properly diagnose...and that was just at the turn of the century. If that had occurred in the '40s or '50s I imagine it might have been a lot harder to diagnose. There is also the possibility that someone suffering from a depression or anxiety disorder might refuse to acknowledge the truth, the truth that they are suffering from a condition and need assistance. Some refuse to seek help, and some refuse to acknowledge that there is anything wrong in the first place. Again, these are all areas that I have dealt with on a personal level, and they are only mere possibilities that I am suggesting in order to help answer the question "why not."

Either way, whether Danny was or was not diagnosed with manic depression, from what I've read, my guess is that he did suffer from it. So he suffered from depression. What has that to do with his ego or personality? Again...this is only my own opinion and speculation...but consider the list of symptoms of Bipolar disorder from The Mayo Clinic:

Signs and symptoms of the Manic phase of bipolar:
(I have listed all the symptoms below as found on
The Mayo Clinic website. As with any condition, not all symptoms are necessarily present in all diagnosed individuals.)

*Extreme optimism
*Inflated self-esteem
*Poor judgment
*Rapid speech
*Racing thoughts
*Aggressive behavior
*Agitation or irritation
*Increased physical activity
*Risky behavior
*Spending sprees or unwise financial choices
*Increased drive to perform or achieve goals
*Increased sex drive
*Decreased need for sleep
*Inability to concentrate

The manic symptoms listed on WebMD are: excessive happiness, excitement, irritability, restlessness, increased energy, less need for sleep, racing thoughts, high sex drive, and a tendency to make grand and unattainable plans. I will refrain from listing the symptoms of depression, as I am sure most know and understand depression to some degree. In any case, it was the symptoms of the manic phase of bipolar (aka manic depression) that intrigued me. When I first read through the symptoms from The Mayo Clinic, the first one that popped out at me was: inflated self-esteem...i.e. ego. Then it hit me. What if the famed Danny Kaye ego was due--in large part--to something like manic depression. Now please understand...I am not a psychologist or a doctor. This is merely my own observation and opinion. However, it is something that stood out to me and is something I find worth considering.

I also found it interesting to note that one of the symptoms listed on WebMD was restlessness, something that has been mentioned before in regards to Danny. Such as this snippet from a September 28, 1967 article: "In Copenhagen to give a lift to the capital’s 800th anniversary celebrations, Kaye owned up to a restlessness that has kept him moving round the globe since making his last TV show in April. 'The restlessness built up during the four years I was doing the show,' he said. 'I just had to be in one place in California for months at a time. When I finished, I played in Vegas but cut that short, went to Israel for a month, went home for five days and then to the South Pacific for 16 days.'" Then, of course, there is the irritability: "What are the worst things about Danny Kaye? 'Impatience, irritability, and a short temper,' he says—three qualities that emerge under stress." (December 12, 1984)

Please understand...this is only my theory...a fan's theory. It could all be merely coincidental. But what if it isn't? What if some of Danny's less desirable qualities were the result of a medical condition? When there is a chemical imbalance, some depression, even anxiety, going on within a person's body, that certainly does change the way you act, especially with others. When left untreated, one can seem to change into a completely different person, to act in ways that they might not have done in the past. Obviously there is no way to know for sure whether or not any of this is true; and if it were to be true, there is no way of knowing when the symptoms might have begun. However, I find all of this worth taking into consideration when on the topic of Danny's personality.

I came across a particular website on Bipolar Personality that I found most interesting. Here is one particular snip from that page:

"Most often, bipolar people most often exhibit a quiet, articulate, thoughtful and intelligent personality, which is what you generally see when you talk with them. However, they may react strangely in small ways, leading you to wonder what triggered this out of character behavior. People with bipolar disorder also tend to be able to hide their true feelings quite well. In fact, they may well be so practiced in keeping things under wraps, you may just write off the occasional strange overreaction to a bad hair day."

This particular page goes on to speak about how those with Bipolar will sometimes simply stop taking their medication. I do not know the medical validity of this page, but it claims that there are certainly surprising out-of-character moments that can occur when the medication is stopped. That is something easily understood for some medications and should come as no surprise. Obviously there is no proof that Danny took any medication, and I am most certainly not saying he did, especially considering that many medications are new having risen up in the last twenty years. All I am saying is that these are all things to consider... What if Danny's actions were merely a combination of manic-depression/bipolar and personality traits that he possessed (a.k.a. the ENTP personality type)?

One thought on the rudeness
Before concluding, I would like to bring this one bit of information into the light. This comes from a
November 3, 1967 article. In the past, there has been talk of rudeness. And, while I am not going to bring forth any specific speculations on that, I would like to point out this information from an interview, which I thought was very interesting.

"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."

Below is a snippet from an article [“Bits of Show Business” The Milwaukee Journal, Dec. 23, 1964], which brings up the topic of loneliness.

"Ray Boyle, former Milwaukee producer – director who now is a frequent performer in minor roles on Danny Kaye’s television show, describes Kaye as 'the loneliest man I’ve ever met.'
Boyle is also a stand-in for Kaye. Harvey Korman, who acted for Boyle at the Miller theater, is a regular on the show.
Boyle said Kaye was 'a loveable man who won’t let anyone get close to him. He lives in a penthouse atop the studio, and no one sees him, including his wife, Sylvia Fine.'”

Obviously all I can say is that if a person is experiencing depression, most of the time the last thing you want to do is be around people.

The Conclusion

Before we become disappointed and critical of Danny's darker side, let's remember that there might have been more going on than anyone else might have realized. If Danny did suffer from manic depression . . . bipolar disorder . . . and not just mere bouts of depression, than some of those less desirable qualities would be much more understandable. His ego, and even other aspects, might have been a result of bipolar. Some people might have a tendency to think that an egotistical person has a large ego because they truly think they are the greatest thing that walked the face of the earth...but why is that? What's the reason behind the ego? Some people might have a tendency to think that a callous person is just acting out because they have a chip on their shoulder, some deep-seated anger of some sort. But why? What's the reason behind the actions?

There is always a reason for our actions, and perhaps this was Danny's reason.

In any is something to bear in mind. Consider it food-for-thought. And certainly if Danny did suffer from this condition, we ought to be amazed at all he accomplished during his lifetime. Getting through life with depression or anxiety is never easy--with or without medication.

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