Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Best $25 Danny Kaye Ever Spent

The highlight of Danny Kaye's breakthrough run at New York's La Martinque nightclub was "Stanislavsky," a new song Sylvia Fine had written—with a little uncredited help.


Writer Sam Locke knew Danny Kaye before he was Danny Kaye. He met then-unknown Kaye in January 1939, during rehearsals for a short-lived revue called Sunday Night Varieties. Days later, he—and Danny—would both for the first time meet songwriter Sylvia Fine, who within a year would become Mrs. Danny Kaye.

When I met Locke in the early 1980s (he died in 1998), his memory of the fateful meeting day and everything about the Kayes was razor-sharp. In addition, he had boxes filled with scribbled notes, programs and photos to back up his every word.

One piece he was particularly proud of was an original January 1940 lyric sheet for “Stanislavsky”—straight out of Sylvia’s typewriter and covered with his own handwritten comments and additions. These days, the song—about the great Russian actor, whose secret is suffering—is not as well known as some of Danny’s other “character songs” like “Anatole of Paris” and “Pavlova,” because he never sang it in any of his movies. But when Danny first performed the song, during his breakthrough nightclub stint at New York’s La Martinique, it was widely considered the highlight of the show. (An audio recording of the song is now available on compilation albums and as a download—and here, since Kaye would later perform it numerous times on his weekly radio show.)

The La Martinique booking was Danny’s first-ever solo show and Sylvia had written “Stanislavsky” especially for it. But, with just days away from the first performance, the song just wasn’t clicking. In a panic, Sylvia ran to Locke, an occasional writing partner during 1939.

Locke suggested deleting a half-dozen extended sections he found flat, including a laugh-free parody of the old song “Mother” (“S is for the way in which we suffer, T is for the tea we always drink…”). Sylvia agreed to all the cuts but one. He also advised moving several sections around and dreamed up a few lines of his own, including what became the biggest laugh in the song: “I’ll never forget the day of my greatest triumph. I was playing part of antique mahogany bureau. So convincing, in the third act, my drawers fell out.”

The rest is history. When Danny received his first week’s pay—$250, in small bills to make the amount seem even more impressive—he knew it was time to pay off his past debts. But now no-nonsense Sylvia was in charge of the finances. They called up Locke.

“(Danny) was at La Martinique,” Locke recalled, pulling out his financial ledger from 1940 to confirm the dates and figures. “They wanted me to come down, so I came down. Then the waiter came over with the check. Anybody else would have paid the check for this poor Brooklyn boy; Danny and Sylvia had arranged that I wouldn’t have to pay the cover.

“Then I went up to their apartment. She said, ‘Now how much do you want for what you’ve done?’ I had written a quarter of it and made that number, so I said, ‘Fifty, fifty dollars.’ I should have said $500! She said, ‘O… kay…’ I said, ‘Why, what were you thinking of?’ She said, ‘25.’ So I said, ‘Okay,’ and it took two payments, $10 March first and then $15 March 22nd, 1940. It took them that long to pay that f#@%ing $25!”

Locke would never work with the Kayes again.

Original Sylvia Fine lyric sheet for "Stanislavsky" shows Sam Locke's suggested changes and doodles.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Johnny Mann Started, But Didn't Finish, "The Danny Kaye Show"

The Johnny Mann Singers left The Danny Kaye Show weeks before they would have recorded this promotional album.


Composer Johnny Mann, who passed away last night at the age of 85, worked with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, and even voiced Theodore the Chipmunk. But I’ll always think of Mann as the Wally Pipp of The Danny Kaye Show.

In 1963, Mann was signed as choral director for Kaye’s planned variety show. He would appear each week with his Johnny Mann Singers and, as a road test, also toured with Danny on stage during the summer leading up to the series.

It’s commonly believed that Mann left the series after completing the 32-episode first season. In truth, he appeared in only the first handful of episodes. (One of the shows he appeared in didn’t air until February 1964, so technically you could say that he was on the show from 1963-1964, even though he barely made it to October 1963.)

The producers decided to instead hire Earl Brown, who worked particularly well with Danny and could craft new and old material exactly for Kaye’s talents. Earl would become fast friends with Danny and one of the show's primary creative influences. He would end up writing specialty material for Danny for years after the series ended. And starting in November 1963, it was the Earl Brown Singers—not the Johnny Mann Singers—starring on The Danny Kaye Show.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Top 12 Roles Danny Kaye Turned Down

Danny Kaye's hit recordings of Gilbert & Sullivan songs earned him an offer to appear with the world-renowned  D'Oyly Carte company


Walter Mitty, Hans Christian Andersen, the Court Jester—Danny Kaye played several iconic roles over the years. But there were several more huge parts that could have been his, had he wanted them.

Tevye, Fiddler on the Roof  (Kaye’s wife/de facto manager Sylvia Fine allegedly said Danny was not interested in playing a character so old that he had marriage-age daughters. That, of course, didn’t stop him from six years later, playing 600-year-old Noah in Two by Two.)

Harold Hill, The Music Man  (Meredith Willson wanted fast-talking Kaye to originate this role on Broadway, but Sylvia thought the part of a huckster wasn’t right for him. But after the show became a hit, Danny campaigned to star in the movie version. This time it was Willson who refused, insisting on no one but Robert Preston.)

Henry Higgins, My Fair Lady  (Kaye declined the opportunity to fill in on Broadway while Rex Harrison took a three-month break in the early 1960s.)

Fred/Petruchio, Kiss Me Kate  (According to Howard Keel, Danny was MGM’s first choice to star in the 1953 movie version of the Cole Porter musical.)

Various Roles, Gilbert & Sullivan Operettas  (After Kaye’s acclaimed recordings of eight Gilbert & Sullivan songs, the prestigious D’Oyly Carte company invited him to tour with them in the 1950s. He declined.)

Francois, Can-Can  (Five years after On the Riviera, 20th Century Fox asked Kaye to make this similarly themed musical, but Danny let the part fall to Frank Sinatra, under On the Riviera director Walter Lang.)

The Dauphin, Huckleberry Finn  (Kaye actually signed on to play Gene Kelly’s sidekick in this big-budget musical. He even began rehearsals in mid-1951, but pulled out, along with Kelly, and the entire project was scrapped. Gene claimed Danny was dissatisfied with playing a supporting role.)

Harry, Harry and Tonto  (Writer Paul Mazursky wanted his former Danny Kaye Show boss to star in his 1974 comedy-drama, until Kaye insisted on “joking up” his script. Mazursky instead hired Art Carney, who would win an Oscar for the role.)

Frosch the Jailer, Die Fledermaus  (In 1950, the New York Metropolitan Opera asked Kaye to play a comic non-singing role in the Johann Strauss operetta, but his busy schedule prevented it.)

Remy Marko, Stop, You’re Killing Me  (Danny was supposed to follow up The Inspector General with a musical version of the Damon Runyon play A Slight Case of Murder for Warner Bros. Unfortunately, the first film was so difficult for all involved that Kaye and the studio mutually ripped up his contract. The part went to Broderick Crawford instead.)

Bert, Mary Poppins  (Walt Disney supposedly briefly considered casting Kaye as the Cockney chimneysweep immortalized by Dick Van Dyke, although there’s no record he was formally offered the part.)

Jerry, Some Like It Hot  (Billy Wilder first envisioned Kaye in the Jack Lemmon role, playing alongside Bob Hope.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Danny Kaye Almost Wasn't the Man from the Diners Club

Frank Tashlin (lower right) directs Danny Kaye and Martha Hyer in The Man from the Diners Club. He very nearly could have been instructing Jack Lemmon and Elizabeth Montgomery.


In almost every movie role he played, Danny Kaye became the character, in large measure because most of his movies were written (or, in the case of The Kid from Brooklyn and White Christmas, rewritten) especially for him.

The only role he seems a little mismatched for is his final starring comic turn, as the slapstick-prone credit card salesman Ernie Klenk in The Man from the Diners Club. The role seems much better suited for Jerry Lewis.

And it’s no coincidence. The movie was directed by Frank Tashlin, who helmed many of Lewis’ best comedies. But when Tashlin was signed by Columbia to make Diners Club, Lewis was under contract to Paramount.

So the studio made up a wish list of the actors they’d like to play each role. Danny Kaye? He was choice #16 as Ernie. The top picks were Jack Lemmon, Tony Randall, Andy Griffith, and Sid Caesar. Others ahead of Kaye were Tab Hunter, David Wayne, Donald O’Connor, Tom Ewell, Eddie Bracken, Tom Poston, Louis Nye, and Tony Perkins.

Martha Hyer was the eighth choice to play Ernie’s girlfriend, Lucy, behind Jean Seberg, Nancy Kovack, Jeanne Crain, Elizabeth Montgomery, Joanne Dru, and Rhonda Fleming.

Telly Savalas wasn’t even on the list to play the heavy, Foots Pulardo. Envisioned were Jackie Gleason, Keenan Wynn, Eli Wallach, or Carl Reiner.

To play his moll, Sugar Pye, they most wanted Mamie Van Doren, Janet Leigh, Tina Louise, or Edie Adams. They got Cara Williams, who was dead last—#22—on the list.

The top pick as Pulardo’s henchman was Maxie Rosenbloom. The part went to option #9, George Kennedy.

It’s interesting to imagine how different the film would have been had they cast many, or any, of these actors instead. No matter, I still don’t think it would have been much of a movie.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Rare Footage Released of Danny Kaye on Stage... and Backstage

Sylvia and Danny Kaye are greeted by newsreel cameras and throngs of fans during his November 1948 trip to London to appear in the Royal Command Performance.


Last week, newsreel archive British Pathé uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 historic films, in high resolution, to its YouTube channel. The treasure trove of vintage footage includes everything from the Wright Brothers’ first flight to the Titanic and the Hindenburg—and at least 29 films featuring Danny Kaye.

Most of the material was filmed during Kaye’s November 1948 trip to London to appear in the Royal Command Performance. British Pathé footage of the show and the trip had been available on YouTube for several years, but only abbreviated snippets and without sound.

Now, we can watch and hear most of Kaye’s performance, marking a rare glimpse of Danny on stage—and backstage.

The best of the films—Danny Kaye 6 Royal Command Performance, Danny Kaye 7 Royal Command Performance, Danny Kaye 8 Royal Command Performance, and Danny Kaye 9 Royal Command Performance (all sound)—contain clips of almost the entire show, albeit in pieces. (Some day someone should edit together these clips to recreate the performance in sequence.) Kaye sings “Bali Boogie,” “Pavlova,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Minnie the Moocher,” “Ballin’ the Jack,” “Deenah,” Because I’m a Londoner,” and “Underneath the Arches.” An extra-special moment is halfway through “6,” when Danny introduces his piano accompanist Sammy Prager and then his wife, “Mrs. Danny Kaye.”

Royal Command Performance 1948, Danny Kaye 12 Royal Command Performance, and Danny Kaye 13 Royal Command Performance (all silent) contain raw footage.

Danny Kaye 10 Royal Command Rehearsal and Danny Kaye 11 Royal Command Rehearsal (both sound) are equally mesmerizing, showing Danny rehearsing for the appearance. It shows Danny’s loose yet professional attitude toward rehearsals (he did not enjoy them and wanted to get them over with as soon as possible, hoping the final performance would come off as more spontaneous—yet he still had to get in sync with the orchestra and the lighting crew. His energy is noticeably lower than it would be during the show that evening.

Danny Kaye 5 Dressing Room (silent). Eight fascinating minutes capturing Danny behind the scenes—dressing for the show, putting on his makeup, consulting with Sammy Prager, and ending with shots of the Royal Command Performance filmed from backstage.

Danny Kaye Comes Back (sound, final cut), Danny Kaye Comes Back (rough cut), Danny Kaye & Wife Arriving to UK (sound/silent mix, raw footage), and Danny Kaye 4 Arrives in London (silent). Danny and Sylvia are greeted at the airport as they arrive for the Royal Command Performance.

Danny Kaye and Danny Kaye’s Royal Show (both narration). Newsreels covering the Command Performance.

Danny Kaye 1 Waxworks (sound). Kaye appearing at the unveiling of his wax likeness at Madame Tassauds, following the Royal Command Performance. He sings “Ballin’ the Jack.”

Danny Kaye 2 Waxworks (sound). More footage from the event, including his singing “Lily of Laguna” and “Deenah.” Prager is shown throughout.

Danny Kaye 3 Waxworks and Danny Kaye 14 Waxworks (both silent). Raw footage of the event.

Danny Kaye at the Tower of London (first two-thirds silent, last third sound). Danny goes sightseeing, for photo opps.

Danny Kaye in Rome (silent). Kaye visits Rome during the 1948 trip.

Danny Kaye’s Farewell Luncheon (silent, with Kaye’s speech in sound). Nice speech with anecdote by Danny, during a luncheon in his honor at the end of his 1949 trip to London.

Danny Kaye OK’s Britain (narration). Final cut of newsreel culled from the farewell luncheon footage.

Golf - Palladium v Arsenal Fc (silent) and Sportlights from 3 Continents (narration). Danny goofs around on the golf course.

Danny Kaye in Canada (first half silent, second sound). Kaye visits Canada in 1949 for stage appearances.

Danny Kaye Arrives in Sydney (sound). Newsreel marking Kaye’s arrival in Australia for a stage tour in 1959.

Theatrical Garden Party (mix of silent and sound). A couple of quick shots of Danny at a celebrity party. Pathé claims this is from 1940, but Danny looks several years older.


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 up 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
Mm-wah!


[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: Larry 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.