From the Archives: Danny Kaye, 74, Dies; World Was His Stage
Danny Kaye, the rubbery-faced, gibberish-spouting comedian who was one of the world's most successful entertainers of the s, '50s and '60s, died early Tuesday. Kaye did not need to worry about work. The poor boy.and
Danny Kaye, the puckish Brooklyn-reared comedian who sang, danced, mimicked, pantomimed and joked his way to Broadway and Hollywood fame, died of heart failure yesterday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was admitted Sunday suffering from internal bleeding and hepatitis, a spokesman for the center said. He was 74 years old and had lived for many years in Beverly Hills. Kaye was incredibly nimble, and he provoked laughter with his tongue-twisting rapid-fire patter, his comic orchestra-conducting and myriad other physical antics. Many admirers called him the greatest comedian of his time. President Reagan said yesterday that he ''could light up a room by just smiling,'' and had ''delighted millions with his special talent for making us laugh. Kaye's gaunt, grinning figure, with its manic eyes, red-blond hair and rubbery arms and legs - now floppy as a rag doll, now jerky as a crazed Cossack dancer - became known and loved around the world.
Danny Kaye was magic. He could make you feel anything is possible. He was a true artist, he was poetry in motion. I also miss him per cent, although I never met him. I think of hom when I'm gloomy and he unfailingly cheers me up. He was and is my favourite. Growing up I found that some artists didn't appeal to me as they did when I was a child, but that was never the case with Danny Kaye.
There was no one like him. If versatility, skill, passion and joy are necessary elements of genius, then Danny Kaye deservedly ranks among that elite class. He appeared on television and radio. He was a box-office magnet on the one-man concert stage. A successful recording artist, Kaye also broke records in supper clubs. He was an actor who danced, he performed a role originally slated for Fred Astaire in White Christmas and a dancer who sang. He elicited tears and belly laughs.
The son of Ukrainian immigrants, Kaye began his performing career in the s as a comic entertainer in hotels in the Catskill Mountains and in nightclubs across the United States. During this period he originated the pantomimes , rapid-fire scat singing, and physical antics that were to become his trademarks. During the early s Kaye performed for American servicemen and became enormously successful as a headline star in New York City nightclubs. During the years 63 Kaye starred mostly in films tailored to his talents as a singer, dancer, physical comic, and mimic. He frequently played multiple roles, such as twins or look-alikes, in the films Wonder Man , On the Riviera , Knock on Wood , and On the Double , or characters with multiple personalities, as in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Sign in. Danny Kaye left school at the age of 13 to work in the so-called Borscht Belt of Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains. It was there he learned the basics of show biz. From there he went through a series of jobs in and out of the business. In , he made his Broadway debut in "Straw Hat Revue," but it was the stage production of the musical "Lady in the Dark" in that brought him acclaim and notice from agents.
Even though he was just acting, his genuine love for people came through. Children especially felt his warmth and humanity. For more than a quarter-century, Kaye was ambassador at large for UNICEF, and seemed to have a special rapport with children; he entertained hundreds of thousands of them over the years in villages and slums in South America, Africa and India. In polio wards, jungle villages and desert oases, Kaye beat the drums for UNICEF, warming up the kids with songs and mugging while doctors and nurses lined them up for vaccinations. Kaye was born David Daniel Kominsky on Jan. His father was a tailor and the family was barely a step up from poverty. Yiddish was the language of the Kominsky home and it was not until elementary school that young David began to learn English.
In many of his movies, as well as on stage, Kaye proved to be an able actor, singer, dancer, and comedian, often having his comedic talents showcased by special material written by his wife, Sylvia Fine. - His performances featured physical comedy , idiosyncratic pantomimes , and rapid-fire novelty songs.