Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Last Day of The Danny Kaye Show

The curtain came down after four years of The Danny Kaye Show with a bang.

In researching my book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters, I interviewed almost the entire creative staff of the show (both producers, two of the three directors, the main song writer, nine sketch writers, the choreographer, two supporting players, and even a cue-card holder), and one thing I asked all of those who were around at the end: did anything special happen on the final day. Nothing out of the ordinary, they recalled. And, technically, that was true. Nothing unusual did happen during the actual taping. But before and after? That’s an entirely different story.

A weekly television variety show was something Danny entered into cautiously. He had put off even appearing on TV for years, and at first agreed to do only three one-hour specials—one per year. But the weekly series would end end veritably consuming the next four years of his life. He initially agreed to three seasons, but seemed happy to take it to four. When he learned CBS had no interest in a fifth season, he was upset—not so much because he loved the exhausting schedule, but more because he had to learn his show was cancelled through the trade papers.

The final episode was scheduled to tape Saturday March 25, 1967, but the crew was too professional to jeopardize anything going wrong, so director Bill Foster and prop man George Bye organized a little going-away party for Friday morning, before the camera-blocking and song-recording got underway. As production assistant Maggie Scott recalled in her unpublished manuscript When It Was Fun:  “The very last taping of Danny’s show was quite memorable. It started at 8:00 in the morning in the rehearsal hall. Bill Foster was giving camera shots to the cameramen when George Bye went to the turntable and put on some stripper music. Two strippers came in and started dancing. Bill pulled out a bottle of champagne and started pouring. The party continued through the morning. Danny came in about 10:00, saw what was going on, and sent out for a case of champagne.

“Robert Morley, the rather staid English actor was the guest on the show. He was rather startled when he showed up, but soon got into the swing of things. Soon the party moved from the rehearsal hall to Danny’s bungalow and then everyone on the show was involved. At one point, Robert got a little speck of somethng on his tie. Good old George said he could get it out. He proceeded to rub the spot with some kind of liquid and completely ruined Robert’s tie.

“This was camera blocking day and we never did get down on the stage. I lost my coat at the party. Dave went down to sweeten last week’s show and put so many laughs in the wrong places that the following day, it had to be redone. Roger was trying to light Judy Petty’s cigarette and set her fingernail on fire. Robert Morley had been told that this was a perfectly run show. When the day finally ended, I’m sure he was saying to himself, ‘I don’t think so!’ This was a day to end all days.”

A few days later, the booze flowed equally freely, as did the tears, at a formal farewell party at The King’s Four-In-Hand restaurant and lounge in Beverly Hills. The undisputed highlight was an original number written and performed by special material writer/arranger Earl Brown (whose Earl Brown Singers performed with Danny most every week). Called “Put-Down Time,” the song included parodies of various popular songs (Billy Barnes’ own “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?,” “My Favorite Things,” “I’m Late,” “I Cain’t Say No,” etc.) poking fun at the rest of the crew and cast. Warning: mild profanity ahead.

Four years ago
The whole Magillah started four years ago
Before it’s ended
There are several closing thoughts
We want to bring you
And sing you.

For instance
Paul [1] used to be a pretty good musician
But now he has a burning new ambition
Don’t know what could have happened to Paul.
Paul all aglow in make-up by Max Factor
Paul now decides he’ll make it as an actor
God knows there’s never been so much Gaul
When Billy wants to pwee-wee-cord
Paul often has a snit
Still, he’s been known to miss his cue
Then he’s a real dumb sh*#!
Although folks may call him dummo, deaf and stupid
We’re crazy ‘bout Jo Stafford’s [2] little cupid
Strange as it seems
We really all love Paul.

Then there’s Margaret Scott
First you click your stop watch
And stop and think
Run over to the Chicken Room [3] and ha-ave a drink
Tell the troops we’re ten minutes long you think
And then you go back to the Chicken Room
And have another drink
Makin’ all the changes is such a drag
Go back to the slicker and continue the jag
Shakin’ at rehearsals ‘til you start to sag
That’s what we call shakin’ the Mag.

Dave Powers, Dave Powers [4]
Goofing off and screwing up by the hours
Drinks a lot to keep in trim
What does Jackie see in him
Burn his script and send him to the showers
Dave Powers.

Oh, Georgie Bye
The props you keep igno-oring
From stage to stage from here to NBC
That lemonade and all the vodka pouring
If you, if you must drink
Save one for me.

Joyce Van Patten [5]
Joyce Van Patten
She looks good in either tweed or satin
Truly she’s surprisin’
Especially when she’s improvisin’
Joyce Van Patten
Joyce Van Patten
Thinks that television’s really rotten
Her El-eanor’s so lovin’
The roast is always in the oven.
When she’s workin’ on the boards
She’s filled with euphoria
but don’t ever give her dressing room
To little Miss Victoria [6]
Joyce Van Patten
Joyce Van Patten
From Los Angeles to old Manhattan
She’s a beauty that-’n
So raise your voice ‘cause she’s our choice
There ain’t no Joyce like Miss Van Patten.

And then there’s Harvey [7]
Psychoneurotic Harvey
Got hips like Bella Darvi
But sweet as he can be
He’s always actin’
Consider Arnold Tracton
God knows whose bed he’s sacked in
When he needs sympathy.
I wish that there were four of him
On second thought no more of him
He’s a killer—a reaa humdinger
Likes to think that he’s a swinger
Harvey—kidding aside, he’s Harvey
I’m gonna take my Harvey
And make him mine all mine.

He’s just a guy who can’t say “R”
Foster’s the gentleman’s name
Won’t order “Wob-Woys” at the bar
Ain’t that a terrible shame
Go get you G*dd*m tattoo
Go take your dickey and screw
And you’ll go far
Even though you can’t say “R.”

Larsen [8] is—musical clearance
And Larsen is—loot!
Larsen is—Magic Castle
And Larsen is—cute!
Larsen is things antique-ey
And objects d’art very chic-ey
Now other guys aren’t so campy
So razz-a-ma-tazz or so scampy
But other guys aren’t the champ
But Bill Larsen is.

Oh Billy Barnes [9]
He wanted Cock Robin to play on forever
Has he stayed too long on the air?
His ad in the trades was so witty and clever
But too many names were not there.
He might throw a fit should you question his choice
Or else he might quit and go back to Joyce [10].
He laughs and he giggles when you call him fat ass
But don’t ever mention his hair
It’s hard to be humble when you’re great as he is
But he’s stayed too long on the air.

He’s late—he’s late—for a very important date
His watch has stopped
His dog is sick
He’s late, he’s late, he’s late, he’s late.
He’s drunk—he’s tired
Perhaps he should be fired
His excuses are all pretty slim
His ties are flat, his battery’s dim
God knows why folks put up with him
He’s late, he’s late, he’s late, he’s late
He’s late, he’s late, he’s late!

Judy, Camilla, Rebecca Mann, and Ebba [11]
We’ll think of them for ebba and ebba and ebba
Judy and Becky and Ebba said “Good luck” you
Camilla just said “F*** you”—she’s Irish
While Judy’s mothering the writers
Ebba thinks ‘bout bees and birdies
Meantime Becky’s keeping busy leanring “Dirtys”
Bless them—they’re charming
We hope we’ve not upset them
We never shall forget them—those broads!

Bob Scheerer, Bob Scheerer [12]
He keeps all his taste in his “rearer.”
His talent has withered away
Without his jokin’, and jestin’
His long drawn out fights with Paul Weston
He might still be working today
So on his next vacation
We sincerely hope he breaks his other leg
His golden brow soon will wrinkle
He’ll soon be the poorman’s Bob Finkel
He’s queer! Bob Scheerer.

Tony [13] —he’s the prince of terpsichore
Each dance is so gorgeous it seems
His kids in feathers and leotards
When they are dancing hard it shows.
And then there’s Dick Beard [14]
How he stands it I’ll never know
Patience and the build of a saint
Dick gave his very best steps to him
That’s our Tony
He should go home and paint.

Tucker, Mazursky, McCormick and Bernie [15]
Stealing old jokes from Saul Ilson and Ernie [16]
Dashing Ron Clark
Also Barash and Moore [17]
These are the writers we’ve grown to adore
Long we’ll remember these eight fancy-free nuts
Coming to run-thru to laugh at the “Peanuts”
Spinning those musical comedy yarns
Where would they be without William C. Barnes
When the jokes fail
When the sketch bombs
When they’re feeling sad
They simply remember the money they’ve made
And then they don’t feel so bad.

Who put the chewing gum in Larry Eaton’s [18] eardrums
Somehow each Wednesday night we only seem to hear drums

Then there’s Ed Chaney, Pat Kenny, Ta-Tarian and Beatty [19]
Robert Lahendro and Alma and Edie
Old Dickie Hall and Monsieur Jean de Crais
Carlton and Carlson and Gene Mac-oy-vay
Big Tommy Schamp, Red Mandel, and Nat Farber
Come a long way since they played with Jan Garber
Dancing Ross Murray and old Norman Dewes
These are a few of our favorite Jews
Garrison Golba, Ben Nye, and Steve Gokee
Lucille and Don who drinks more than Jack Oakie
Sheldon and Bill, Jim and Roger and Ken
Thank God we won’t have to see them again.
Sidney and Sammy and all the musicians
All of the grips and those drunkie electricians
Budgen and Ann, old Jack Collins and Clyde
Can’t find the words to express what’s inside
Old father Bonis [20] and Shelley and Bunny
Val, Shirl and Larry who hoards all that money
If we’ve forgotten you don’t take it wrong
There’s only so many notes in this song
When if ever, we’re together
‘Til we meet once more
We just want to tell you with joy in our hearts
You’ve all been a crashing bore!

What now, D.K.?
Now that it’s over
What can we do—we’ll have to beg
We thought you cared
Cared more about us
If you must act—hope you lay an egg
You gave your word that you’d return
If Becky Mann let you touch her fern
Now we must cry
Now we must sob
‘Cause we ain’t got no job
Go fly your plane
Forget about us
We’ll find a star with a lot more class
We’ll get a job with Jerry Lewis
And then D.K.
You can kiss my ass!

Remember Tammy Grimes [21] without her underclothes
And Julie Newmar dancing in her nurse’s hose
And how Phil Silvers taught you how to pick your nose.
Remember when

Miss Dorothy Collins’ riding hood was very dear
That Billy Strange guitar that crushed our every ear
I think we may have ruined Jose Ferrer’s career [22]
Remember when

Then one week we introduced the new Big Three [23]
My how chic when Lucy hit you in the “D.” [24]
Remember the Ruffinos and their baryard prose
And Barbara Minkus rocketing to brand new lows
And John who dropped the cable on your French-fried toes [25]
Remember when

Remember Godfrey Cambridge whom we all loved so
And D’Al-Aldo Romano singing Mex-i-hee-ee-co!
The Christmas party Edie told you where to go
Remember when

Then one night Eddie Albert sang “September Song”
Oh, my God—I thought he’d sing it all night long.
Remember when the Gospel Pearls were all the craze
And how their bounding bosoms set the screen ablaze.
That sitdown spot with Vicki that went on for days [26]
Remember when

There’s been a lot of panic and a tear or two
We really can’t believe that now it’s really through
To put it mildly, Dan, it’s been a ball with you
We’ll always remember when.

Merci, Daniel
There’s no more to tell
What we mean is, gee, it’s really been swell
Just talkin’ and singin’ and jumpin’ and swingin’ with you
From fat Early Brown and the singers
We sincerely do want to thank you

[1] The show’s orchestra leader/musical director Paul Weston
[2] Weston’s wife, singer Jo Stafford
[3] Chicken Room was Weston’s nickname for the crew’s favorite after-hours watering hole, The City Slicker
[4] Associate director Dave Powers
[5] Supporting player Joyce Van Patten
[6] Frequent guest child star Victoria Paige Meyerink
[7] Supporting player Harvey Korman
[8] Associate producer Bill Larsen, who was also the founder of Hollywood’s Magic Castle
[9] Composer and special material writer Billy Barnes
[10] Barnes’ ex-wife Joyce Jameson, a comedienne who was a frequent supporting player on The Danny Kaye Show
[11] The office staff, including the shy secretaries Becky Mann and Ebba Johnson
[12] Bob Scheerer produced the show’s last two seasons after directing the first two
[13] Choreographer Tony Charmoli
[14] Charmoli’s assistant, Dick Beard
[15], [17] The final year’s writing staff: Bob Tucker, Paul Mazursky, Pat McCormick, Bernie Rothman, Ron Clark, Norman Barasch, Caroll Moore
[16] Former writers Saul Ilson and Ernie Chambers
[18] Soundman Larry Eaton
[19] The four cameramen, followed by the rest of the technical crew
[20] Herb Bonis, the show’s executive producer, who as Danny’s business manager led his production company, Dena Productions. Shelley was his daughter, Bunny his wife.
[21] Free-spirited singer/actress Tammy Grimes rehearsed for her guest appearance sans undies
[22] Actor Jose Ferrer guest starred on the series twice—the second and final time in a highly campy sketch
[23] Band featuring Mama Cass Elliott and Jim Hendricks (who would go on to the Mamas and the Papas) and Tim Rose
[24] Lucille Ball stood toe-to-toe with Danny during her guest stint.
[25] Danny taped the last several shows of season one in a cast, after severely burning his right foot. Unfortunately, during one rehearsal, a cable-puller dropped one of the heavy cables on his bandaged appendage.
[26] Wee Victoria Meyerink became a near-regular late in season two, until she began clamming up and Danny tried everything to coax the cuteness out of her. It didn’t work.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Sequel to Danny Kaye's "Knock on Wood"... Starring Bob Hope

While Sam Goldwyn always wanted to make a sequel to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it was Kaye's first film for Paramount, Knock on Wood, that came closer to inspiring a follow-up picture.

Knock on Wood was intended to be Danny Kaye’s first of two movies with Paramount, but the spy comedy was so well received, it led to a series of other pictures, nearly including a sequel.

As shooting for the film was wrapping in late summer 1953, Paramount was desperate to find a co-star for Bing Crosby in White Christmas and, impressed by how well Knock on Wood was coming along, bribed Kaye to handsomely to step in—and even paid Knock on Wood writer/directors Norman Panama and Mel Frank to rewrite the White Christmas script to make it more suitable for Danny’s talents and personality.

When the two movies were released in 1954, White Christmas became the biggest grossing film of the year, taking in $12 million. But it cost nearly $4 million to produce and market, and Paramount had to give away two-thirds of the profits to Crosby, Irving Berlin, and Kaye.

What really impressed the studio was the surprise smash showing of Knock on Wood. It cost $1.2 million and earned $4 million. Paramount quickly negotiated with Kaye for a second two-picture deal, even though it still hadn’t decided what it was going to do as the second picture of the first two-picture deal. Panama and Frank, as it turned out, wanted to do an epic swashbuckling comedy, The Court Jester. Paramount okayed the big-budget epic, but as part of the second deal, they wanted a sequel to Knock on Wood.

After finishing up with The Court Jester in 1956, Panama and Frank started work on a script for a sequel that incorporated Danny’s same ventriloquist character, running into more international spies, but this time in Japan. The title: Knock on Silk.

But as the disappointing returns on The Court Jester trickled in—and Danny devoted huge swaths of his downtime to traveling the globe for UNICEF—Paramount began to question the wisdom of a sequel. Kaye wasn’t happy with the script, so he decided to do two movies for other studios first. When he found their rewrite still too outlandish, he committed to The Five Pennies as his next Paramount picture, figuring he’d conclude his Paramount contract with Knock on Silk.

So Panama and Frank gave it one more stab, removing the Knock on Wood sequel elements and renaming it The Bamboo Kid. It would be shot in Japan, with Danny playing a temperamental movie star who criticizes the script he’s given, saying that it’s too unbelievable—until such adventures really start happening.

Panama and Frank submitted their revised script to Danny in February 1959. He still didn’t like it and tabled the project indefinitely. He ended up selling it to Bob Hope, who had Panama and Frank rewrite it again as The Road to Hong Kong.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Grandfather of "The Lobby Number"

Danny Kaye wasn't the first to poke fun at "Apple Blossom Time" in Up in Arms' "Lobby Number."

My favorite Danny Kaye number is “The Lobby Number,” from his first feature, Up in Arms. The song’s convoluted creation (which continued even after the number was filmed, so Danny had to go back and film parts again) is fully detailed in the book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. But, in brief, Sylvia Fine and Max Liebman created most of the number by piecing together snippets of songs and sketch jokes they’d written for movie spoofs at Camp Tamiment.

But what about the number’s most famous line, “When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pear”—where did that come from? Jerome Kern and Cole Porter, if you go back far enough. For Up in Arms, Sylvia pilfered the line from a ditty she’d written at Tamiment, a Busby Berkeley-type production number, “Cherry Blossom Time” (“When it’s cherry blossom time in Orange, New Jersey, we’ll make a peach of a pear. Oh, honeydew be mine, because we cantaloupe. I’ll take you to the chapel, as the apple of my I declare, the month of May is merry, for girls ‘n’ boysenberry…”). Sylvia’s inspiration was “When It’s Apple Blossom Time in Normandy,” a pop song that was a huge hit—in 1913.

But Fine wasn’t the first to spoof the song. In 1917, Jerome Kern and P.G. Wodehouse made fun of it (and other “When it’s something-or-other-time in some place far away place” songs, like “Tulip Time in Holland”) in “Nesting Time in Flatbush” for the 1917 Broadway show Oh Boy! And, five years later, Cole Porter included a joke about the lyrics in his song “Cocktail Time” from his show Mayfair and Montmartre.

For the record, Sylvia insisted she’d never heard of the Kern or Porter songs when she wrote “The Lobby Number.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sid Caesar and Danny Kaye Followed in Each Other's Footsteps

Sid Caesar borrowed early Danny Kaye's producer, early co-star Imogene Coca, and revue format for his historic TV variety show. Fourteen years later, Kaye would return the favor.

This morning, TV comedy pioneer Sid Caesar passed away at the age of 91. Although he never worked with Danny Kaye, Caesar’s early career was intentionally fashioned after Kaye’s—while Kaye’s later career was specifically modeled after Caesar’s.

Here’s how it happened:  While performing in an armed services musical revue, Caesar was discovered by producer Max Liebman—who five years earlier had similarly discovered Kaye. He saw in Sid the same genius for mimicry, dialects, fast-paced double-talk, broad comedy, and pantomime that he had groomed in Kaye.

Liebman would build a live TV variety show around Caesar, modeled after the revues Kaye appeared in at the Tamiment summer camp. And as Sid’s co-star, he cast Danny’s Tamiment castmate, Imogene Coca.

Fast forward 14 years later:  Danny, who had spent a decade running away from television, was finally ready to make the plunge. In early 1963, he began soliciting ideas for his own TV series. The first writers he hired to create The Danny Kaye Show were all Caesar veterans—Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, and Shelly Keller—and they intentionally patterned Danny’s show after Sid’s. Even many of their ideas for comedy sketches were lifted straight from Your Show of Shows, such as Danny playing an “expert” character who each week holds a press conference to expound nonsense on a different topic a la Caesar’s Professor.

Tolkin and Keller served as head writers during The Danny Kaye Show’s first two years, and they kept writing in Caesar’s TV co-stars, Imogene Coca and Howie Morris, as guests on the Kaye show. (Morris appeared with Danny a record 10 times, Coca six.) When Tolkin and Keller needed another writer, they called on fellow Caesar show alumnus Gary Belkin.

The connections also extended to the supporting casts. The first “regular” hired, Lovelady Powell, was let go after taping two episodes because she lacked the versatility of Coca. It would take the staff a year to discover a female with a broad enough range, in Joyce Van Patten. The male regulars were identified more quickly. By episode three, they’d found Harvey Korman, who would play the exact roles Carl Reiner would do in Your Show of Shows. And soon after, they tapped Jamie Farr, to play the Howard Morris roles. Watch the Student Prince spoof on the Danny Kaye Show Christmas DVD, and you’ll swear you’re watching Caesar, Reiner and Morris instead of Kaye, Korman and Farr.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

3 Danny Kaye Movies You’ve Never Heard Of—But May Have Seen

Have you ever seen Danny Kaye in The Ladies Have Charms?

The Ladies Have Charms?

Running Risks?

Blind Man’s Bluff?

Even the biggest Danny Kaye fan probably has never even heard of these movies. Yet there’s a chance you’ve seen them—under a different name.

In the 1960s, there was no home video market. No DVDs. No VHS. (And limited options for viewing old movies on TV.) So people who wanted to collect movies had to buy actual films and their own film projector—either a giant 16mm contraption (like the rickety Bell & Howell your gradeschool used to have) or a more modestly sized, yet silent 8mm projector.

While these home projectors were typically purchased for viewing families’ home movies, there was also a small market for Hollywood-produced films, which distributors sold through catalogs and certain retail stores. (When I was a kid, the local Kmart used to stock several dozen titles.)

Since film was expensive and most home projectors could accommodate reels of limited size, many of the films offered for sale were black-and-white and either shorts (like vintage comedies, cartoons or newsreels) or cut-downs of longer movies. If a movies wasn’t well known, the distributor would usually rename its abridgement to something it thought sounded snappier (which also allowed it to create multiple different releases from a single feature).

So in the late 1960s, U.K. distributor Walton Films got the rights to release a number of Educational shorts from the 1930s, including those starring Danny Kaye as a manic Russian.

Getting an Eyeful (Danny visits a sadistic eye doctor) was retitled Blind Man’s Bluff. Cupid Takes a Holiday (Danny must find a bride) was renamed The Ladies Have Charms. And, Money on Your Life (Danny flees from hit men) became Running Risks.

They were sold in nearly complete sound versions in 16mm (as much as would fit on a 400-foot reel) and chopped down to four minutes and silent in 8mm (on 50-foot reels).

The originals are all available for viewing on the Library of Congress’ Danny Kaye & Sylvia Fine website—in their unadulterated, correctly titled state.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Secret Outtakes on New "Mitty" DVD

It may have made the poster, but it didn't make the movie. The image of Danny Kaye in this poster is straight from a Chinese restaurant scene deleted from the theatrical release of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
The one downside to the recent flurry of Danny Kaye DVD releases has been the discs’ lack of bonus materials. A few contain theatrical trailers; most have nothing.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to notice the Warner Archives’ new pressing of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty contained several bonus features—the trailer, as well as an interview with Virginia Mayo. Ms. Mayo was very sweet when I interviewed her 30 years ago for Danny Kaye: King of Jesters, but perhaps a little too sweet. I could tell from the way she talked about Danny and especially Sylvia that she was holding back; I was convinced she held several more interesting memories that she wasn’t quite ready to share.

Perhaps this new DVD had the rest of the story? Alas, no. I already knew it wasn’t a new interview, since Ms. Mayo died nine years ago. But while she is lovely on the DVD, it isn’t really an interview, but rather a well-rehearsed, 90-second introduction of the cast and the sharing of a single, innocuous anecdote. I was disappointed, and reluctantly clicked the menu to view the trailer, expecting nothing more than a 30-second collection of clips from the movie.

Au contraire. My first hint that something special awaited me came early on, as the narrator announced, "Danny Kaye, eight times as funny in eight hilarious roles!" Eight? But the finished film contains only six dream Mitties plus his real-life seventh personality, mild-mannered Mitty. Number Eight must have been the fleeing gangster Walter O’Mitty, who sang “Molly Malone” in a deleted Irish Informant daydream.

You see, during its first pre-release previews in the spring of 1947, the film clocked in at two-and-a-half hours—far too long for a comedy. So the editors went to work whittling the movie down to one hour, 50 minutes. “Molly Malone” and a half-dozen other extended sequences ended up on the cutting room floor.

Evidently, the trailer that appears on the DVD was created during the previews and originally contained a brief shot of Walter O’Mitty. In its place, there’s now a rough, near-imperceptible cut (instead of a smooth dissolve) where the shot probably was intended to be (between Captain Mitty and Anatole).

But all was not lost. The final shot of the trailer is the intended ending of the western daydream, which did get cut from the movie—of Slim Mitty whalloping Toledo Tubby into a horse trough. (In the movie, the dream ends right before this, with Tubby on his knees, begging for mercy.)

And better yet, right before that scene the trailer contains quick snippets from the deleted Chinese restaurant scene.  Boris Karloff and Henry “Lard Face” Corden are scowling in a restaurant booth, as they take back the black book from Danny. Lard Face then throws a knife at Danny, who dodges it with a look of terror on his face. (A still photo of this scene also appears on the back of the DVD sleeve and was used to produce the above theatrical poster.)

I had assumed that everything deleted from Mitty had been lost forever, so it’s wonderful that some of the footage has survived—even if it’s only a few seconds.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: The Worst of Danny Kaye

As wonderful as this Year in Danny Kaye has been, there were a few jeers.
2013 has been an almost perfect year for Danny Kaye fans, as illustrated by yesterday’s list of highlights. Unfortunately, there were a few low lights, as well:

(1) Farewells.
My favorite part of this job is meeting and sometimes befriending the kind folks who consent to my interviews. My least favorite part is losing them. But, particularly considering most of them are in their 70s, 80s or 90s, it’s inevitable. This year, we bid farewell to:

• Johnny Weiner, as part of the Weiner clan that operated the old White Roe Lake Resort in Livingston Manor, N.Y., had been the sole surviving link to Danny’s days in the Catskills.

• Patty Andrews, the last of the Andrews Sisters, and Danny recorded the duet “Orange-Colored Sky” and, joined by her sisters, 10 other singles that marked some of Kaye's finest audio work (including my personal favorite “It’s a Quiet Town.”)

• Bryan Forbes directed Kaye in his final feature film, The Madwoman of Chaillot.

(2) No New Danny Kaye Show Episodes.
Last year's disc featuring two Christmas shows was to be the first of many episodes of Kaye’s 1960s TV variety series to make it on to DVD. Thirteen months and thousands of DVD sales later, we’re still waiting for more.

(3) The Danny Kaye Online Store.
It was wonderful seeing the Danny Kaye Centennial committee able to purchase the domain dannykaye.com and transfer their content from officialdannykaye.com. But a key ingredient was supposed to be an online store, patterned after the one at www.bingcrosby.com, where fans could buy unique Danny Kaye merchandise.

At Crosby's site, you can buy a half-dozen terrific CDs, two DVDs, three books, apparel, Christmas ornaments, even golf balls. So far, the only things you can buy at the Kaye store are a CafePress-style T-shirt and a coffee mug with the Centennial logo slapped on the front. At the very least they should be selling pressed-to-order CDs. Hopefully the store will make it onto the Top Best List in 2014!