Kaye Blue Biography & Facts
Danny Kaye (born David Daniel Kaminsky; Yiddish: דוד־דניאל קאַמינסקי; January 18, 1911 – March 3, 1987) was an American actor, singer, dancer, comedian, musician, philanthropist, and cook. His performances featured physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire novelty songs.
Kaye starred in 17 films, notably Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), White Christmas (1954), and The Court Jester (1955). His films were popular, especially for his performances of patter songs and favorites such as "Inchworm" and "The Ugly Duckling".
He was the first ambassador-at-large of UNICEF in 1954 and received the French Legion of Honour in 1986 for his years of work with the organization.
David Daniel Kaminsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 18, 1911 (though he would later say 1913), to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants Jacob and Clara (née Nemerovsky) Kaminsky. He was the youngest of three sons. His parents and older brothers Larry and Mac left Dnipropetrovsk two years before Danny's birth; he was their only son born in the United States.He attended Public School 149 in East New York, Brooklyn (eventually renamed to honor him)—where he began entertaining his classmates with songs and jokes. He attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, but he did not graduate.His mother died when he was in his early teens. Not long after, Kaye and his friend Louis ran away to Florida. Kaye sang while Louis played the guitar and the pair eked out a living for a while. When Kaye returned to New York, his father did not pressure him to return to school or work, giving his son the chance to mature and discover his own abilities. Kaye said that as a young boy, he had wanted to be a surgeon, but the family could not afford a medical education.He held a succession of jobs after leaving school, as a soda jerk, auto insurance investigator, and office clerk. Most ended with him being fired. He lost the insurance job when he made an error that cost the insurance company $40,000 ($600,000 in 2019 adjusted for inflation). A dentist who hired him to look after his office over lunch and run errands fired him when he found Kaye using his dental drill on the office woodwork. In 1939, Kaye met the same dentist's daughter, Sylvia Fine, at an audition, and in 1940 they eloped. He learned his trade in his teenage years in the Catskills as a tummler in the Borscht Belt.Kaye's first break came in 1933 when he joined the Three Terpsichoreans, a vaudeville dance act. They opened in Utica, New York, where he used the stage name Danny Kaye for the first time. The act toured the United States and in Asia with the show La Vie Paree. The troupe left for a six-month tour of Asia on February 8, 1934. During its stay in Osaka, Japan, a typhoon hit the city. The troupe's hotel suffered heavy damage. The strong wind hurled a piece of the hotel's cornice into Kaye's room. By evening's performance time, the city was in the grip of the storm. With no power, the audience became restless and nervous. To calm them, Kaye went on stage holding a flashlight to illuminate his face and sang every song he could recall as loudly as he was able.The experience of trying to entertain audiences who did not speak English inspired him to do the pantomime gestures, songs, and facial expressions that eventually made his reputation. Sometimes, he found them necessary when ordering a meal. Kaye's daughter Dena relates a story her father told about being in a restaurant in China and trying to order chicken. Kaye flapped his arms and clucked, giving the waiter an imitation of a chicken. The waiter nodded in understanding, bringing Kaye two eggs. His interest in cooking began on the tour.Jobs were in short supply when Kaye returned to the United States, and he struggled for bookings. One job was working in a burlesque revue with fan dancer Sally Rand. After the dancer dropped a fan while trying to chase away a fly, Kaye was hired to watch the fans so they were always held in front of her.
In 1937, Kaye's film debut came from a contract with New York–based Educational Pictures for a series of two-reel comedies. He usually played a manic, dark-haired, fast-talking Russian in these low-budget shorts, opposite young hopefuls June Allyson and Imogene Coca. The Kaye series ended abruptly when the studio shut down in 1938. He was working in the Catskills in 1937 under the name Danny Kolbin.His next venture was a short-lived Broadway show with Sylvia Fine as the pianist, lyricist, and composer. The Straw Hat Revue opened on September 29, 1939, and closed after 10 weeks, but critics took notice of Kaye's work. The reviews brought an offer for both Kaye and his bride Sylvia to work at La Martinique, a New York City nightclub. Kaye performed with Sylvia as his accompanist. At La Martinique, playwright Moss Hart saw Danny perform, and that led to Hart's casting him in his hit Broadway comedy Lady in the Dark.In 1941, aged 30, Kaye scored a triumph playing Russell Paxton in Lady in the Dark, starring Gertrude Lawrence. His show-stopping number was "Tschaikowsky (and Other Russians)" by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin in which he sang the names of a string of Russian composers at breakneck speed, seemingly without taking a breath. In the next Broadway season, he was the star of a show about a young man who is drafted called Let's Face It!.His feature film debut was in producer Samuel Goldwyn's Technicolor 1944 comedy Up in Arms, a remake of Goldwyn's Eddie Cantor comedy Whoopee! (1930). Rival producer Robert M. Savini cashed in by compiling three of Kaye's Educational Pictures shorts into a patchwork feature entitled The Birth of a Star (1945). Studio mogul Goldwyn wanted Kaye's prominent nose fixed to look less Jewish; Kaye refused, but he did allow his red hair to be dyed blond, apparently because it looked better in Technicolor.
Kaye starred in a radio program, The Danny Kaye Show, on CBS in 1945–46. The program's popularity rose quickly. Within a year he tied with Jimmy Durante for fifth place in the Radio Daily popularity poll. Kaye was asked to participate in a USO tour following the end of World War II. It meant that he would be absent from his radio show for nearly two months at the beginning of the season. Kaye's friends filled in, with a different guest host each week. Kaye was the first American actor to visit postwar Tokyo. He had toured there some ten years before with the vaudeville troupe. When Kaye asked to be released from his radio contract in mid-1946, he agreed not to accept a regular radio show for one year and only limited guest appearances on other radio programs. Many of the show's episodes survive today, notable for Kaye's opening signature patter ("Git gat gittle, giddle-di-ap, giddle-de-tommy, riddle de biddle de roop, da-reep, fa-san, skeedle de woo-da, fiddle de wa.... Discover the Kaye Blue popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Kaye Blue books.