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!

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: The Best of Danny Kaye

2013: The Year in Danny Kaye
An avalanche of wonderful DVD and Blu-Ray releases was the highlight of 2013 for this Danny Kaye fan.

Danny Kaye fans have had plenty to rejoice about this year. There haven’t been this many opportunities to enjoy the performer’s work since before he passed away in 1987.

Here were my Top 10 Danny Kaye highlights of 2013:

(1) DVD Bonanza.
Aside from dozens of low-budget releases of the public domain The Inspector General, Kaye’s movies have never been that accessible on home video. That all changed over the last few months, with the release on DVD of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the four-pack Danny Kaye: Goldwyn Years, a combo Court Jester/Five Pennies disc, and pristine Blu-Rays of Knock on Wood, On the Double, and On the Riviera.
That leaves just two Kaye features unavailable—the sadly neglected Me and the Colonel and the not-so-sadly-neglected Man from the Diners Club.

(2) Library of Congress Website.
 Accessed at www.loc.gov/kayefine, the new Danny Kaye/Sylvia Fine collection website is a godsend for all Kaye fans and researchers. You’ll find recordings of songs, radio shows, short films, rare family photographs, Sylvia’s hand-drawn orchestral scores and typed lyric sheets, scripts, personal letters, and more—without having to make the trip to Washington, D.C.

(3) Dena Kaye’s Tireless Pounding of the Pavement.
Danny and Sylvia’s daughter Dena deserves much of the credit for not only funding the centennial celebration that inspired most of these products and tributes, but also for constantly making herself available for interviews and events. Her energy and her presence are what kept this event—and her dad—in the public eye for so long.

(4) TCM Moviethon.
Turner Classic Movies celebrated Kaye’s birthday with a day-long tribute that did as much as anything to shine a light on his finest work.

(5) The Danny Kaye Show on Sirius Radio.
The private-access radio network has been regularly airing dozens of episodes of Kaye’s old radio series. Many of the programs haven’t been heard since they first aired in the 1940s.

(6) The Traveling Library of Congress Display.
That a sampling of artifacts from the LoC collection was on display in their reading room’s foyer was neat, for the hundreds of visitors who came across it. Even better was when the collection was moved to Los Angeles, where it could be enjoyed by the thousands.

(7) Instant Downloads.
Kaye has definitely arrived in the here and right now. This year, several of his movies became available as instant downloads on iTunes.

(8) The New Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
In making his new film, Ben Stiller intentionally tried to steer clear of Danny’s version, but—considering the movie's high profile—its mere existence should send thousands of fans clamoring to check out the original.

(9) Danny Kaye Film Festival.
Attendance may have been small, but the love for Danny in that conference center was palpable. And they booked a great speaker with a terrific slide show!

(10) The Clicks Keep Coming.
It’s been supremely gratifying to see readers continue to stream to this blog and continue to purchase copies of my book, Danny Kaye: King of Jesters. It shows me that indeed the world has not forgotten about—and still enjoys the work of—Danny Kaye. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Walter Mitty Is for the Birds

Danny heads for a run-in with his fowl friends, who were supposed to have a larger role in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

In Danny Kaye’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), pigeons are featured throughout the movie, but they’re simply a plot-moving gimmick, giving the screenwriters a device to keep Mitty distracted when he’s supposed to be doing other things at work and to provide a kickstart to Danny’s wacky physical antics.

But in early drafts of the screenplay, the pigeons had a more prominent role and purpose. The birds were supposed to symbolize the freedom and adventure that Mitty secretly longed for.

In an early version of the screenplay, Walter arrives in his office and slides up his window, where several pigeons are waiting on the ledge. He greets them by name and begins feeding them cookies: “Why, Elmer, where have you been? I haven’t seen you for ages. I suppose you took a trip down south, eh? Boy, I bet you saw some sights!”

As he hands out the last cookie from his bag, Mitty leans on the window sill and continues, dreamily, “Yucatan… Trinidad… winging over the blue Caribbean… talking to the parrots in Guatemala… flying down the Rio in the moonlight… up the mysterious Amazon to the towering snow-capped Andes—gee, I bet you had to watch out for those giant eagles! Why they’ve even been known to carry off a man...”

The role of that one particular pigeon—Elmer—is built up to the point where, during the “Anatole of Paris” dream, Mitty imagines his future mother-in-law wearing a ridiculous birdcage-shaped hat, with Elmer inside.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Danny Kaye’s Other Christmas Movie

Danny Kaye nearly played this scene in a flowing white beard and overstuffed red suit.

As the top moneymaker of 1954 and a perennial TV favorite ever since, White Christmas may have become Danny Kaye’s most-remembered movie—but it very nearly wasn’t his first Christmas movie. A decade earlier, Kaye had begun production of another holiday-themed classic—until an on-set injury led to the project losing its festive trimmings.

Back in 1944, Sam Goldwyn put his writers to work preparing a follow-up to Danny’s debut in Up in Arms. Over the first few drafts, the story evolved from Danny playing a bookish genius who disguises himself as a nightclub performer to help solve a murder into making the nightclub performer Danny’s obnoxious twin—who becomes the murder victim—and who returns as a ghost to assist his brother.

Goldwyn, though, didn’t want the story to get too grim, so for draft number 6, he brought in Jo Swerling, a frequent collaborator of All American director Frank Capra. Among Swerling’s suggestions:  re-setting the story at Christmas time. The holidays would be worked into the storyline, most notably during the climax, in which gangsters chase Danny’s bookworm character through a crowded department store.

Swerling and Mel Shavelson scripted a string of comedy sequences, as Kaye tries dodging the hitmen on elevators, hiding out amid a nylons sale, and mixing in with the Goldwyn Girls as models in a fashion show (a scene copied a couple of years later in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Danny finally swipes a Santa costume and takes the place of St. Nick greeting kids in the toy department. But the gangsters recognize him and start chasing Santa through the store, to the customers’ disbelief. Danny finally makes it into the package room and slides out of the building on a package chute. But the hoods aren’t far behind. On the street, they run up behind Santa and grab him—only to discover it’s a Salvation Army Santa. They look up, and there’s a Santa on every corner.

Danny flees to the nightclub. The gangsters arrive a moment later, but—noticing the DA in the audience—Kaye (still dressed as Santa) bounds on to the stage, in the middle of Vera-Ellen’s dance routine, and makes up a song in which he lyrically reenacts the murder he’s witnessed, playing all the characters himself.

Executives at the studio loved the film’s new holiday overlay so much, they wanted to rename the movie The Christmas Spirit and release it in December. Goldwyn enjoyed the Christmas elements, but thought there were too many holiday pictures all ready. He’d stick with the name Wonder Man. After five more script rewrites, filming began in July 1944, with some Christmas elements—particularly the Santa store chase—intact. Unfortunately, four days into production, Danny severely wrenched his knee finishing up the film’s opening dance number.

With Kaye (and sometimes two of him!) in almost every scene, production had to be shut down for three weeks. During that time, the director brought in gagwriter Phil Rapp to completely revise the screenplay. To save time and money, Rapp cut the entire department store sequence and ultimately all other Christmas references (since, without the Santa finale and with no chance of making a December release date, they were unneccessary).

Swerling would get a supernatural Christmas story filmed, however. Right after working on Wonder Man, he rejoined Capra one final time—to help write It’s a Wonderful Life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Special: Danny Kaye Chows Down

Elsa Lanchester looks on as Danny Kaye finally performs his "Busy Eater" routine in The Inspector General.

Although Danny Kaye never wrote his own material for his movies, he did dream up a collection of dialects, characters and routines to amuse his friends that ended up inspiring his screenwriters (the most famous being his “surgery scat” that his wife Sylvia Fine used as the basis for “Melody in 4-F,” which made it into his first movie, Up in Arms).

The head writer on his first three movies was Don Hartman, one of Danny’s closest pals, who was intimately familiar with Kaye’s formal and informal material. Consequently, Hartman was always trying to work Danny’s bits into his storylines. Another chum was Phil Rapp (creator of radio’s The Bickersons and Baby Snooks), who was brought in on Kaye’s first six movies to doctor the scripts (i.e., to add as many gags as possible).

For The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), Rapp hoped to include Danny’s “Busy Eater” routine. Kaye, a serial mocker, thought the act up one night while dining with friends at a Chinese restaurant. Sitting nearby was a man energetically filling his face without taking a breath. Kaye was so intrigued by his eating style that he spontaneously began imitating the customer. From then on, Danny could send friends into convulsions whenever he sat down at a dinner table.

Unfortunately, the bit was a poor match for the Kid from Brooklyn storyline and was dropped. But two years later, Rapp tried again, slipping it into a rewrite for A Song Is Born. Once again, the plot had to be stretched too far to create a situation in which Kaye’s character is so starved that he pigs out in fast motion.

A year later, however, Rapp got his golden opportunity. The script that he was brought in to doctor for The Inspector General already contained a scene in which Danny’s character is starving and is treated to a feast by the unsuspecting townspeople. The set-up was waiting for him! Finally, Kaye could be filmed maniacally chewing, chugging, cutting, buttering and seasoning for posterity.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Danny Kaye: King of Klutzes

A dozen members of the cast and crew were injured during the production of The Court Jester, including Kaye and several pint-sized co-stars.

One of the most surprising discoveries I made in conducting research for my recent book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters was that Kaye, for such a graceful performer, was a magnet for injury. He suffered countless breaks, bumps, scrapes, cuts, tears and twists on the job, many of them detailed in the book.

But at least he had company, as fellow performers—primarily dancers and stuntmen in his movies—experienced their fair share of injuries. Not unexpectedly, the two films that racked up the most accident reports were the one with the most elaborate dance sequence (Knock on Wood, with its ballet climax) and the one with the most elaborate stunts (The Court Jester).

During the production of Knock on Wood, in addition to Kaye cutting and bruising his knee in the shower scene, a stand-in stepped on a nail, choreographer Michael Kidd was struck by a “fake-flower wire,” a dancer injured his wrist taking falls, another dancer skinned her knee, and yet another ballerina complained of a “splinter injury.” The worst fate befell dancer Pat Denise (who played Danny’s mother in flashback), who pulled her calf muscle while rehearsing the title song dance number. Kaye personally drove her to the doctor, who advised Denise to stay off the ankle for a while, shutting down production and delaying filming for more than three weeks.

The cast and crew of The Court Jester sustained roughly a dozen injuries, several of them suffered by the acrobatically inclined midgets. One wee actor, while rehearsing a scene in a tree, struck his head on a protruding stump. More seriously, as another midget was rehearsing sliding down a rope, his left leg struck his right leg as he tried to make a “false landing,” sending him tumbling. He tried to break his fall with his left hand, and ended up breaking his left wrist and his left ankle.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Danny Becomes an Indian Guru

A long-forgotten guru spoof was a staple of Danny Kaye's stage shows in the 1950s and 1960s.

Danny Kaye’s career first took off when he started performing the specialty songs of wife-to-be Sylvia Fine, in particular the “character numbers,” in which Danny played and sang the history or philosophy of an exotic personality, such as French hat designer “Anatole of Paris,” suffering acting teacher “Stanislavsky,” or ballet legend “Pavolva.”
Performances of most of these numbers have been preserved, either in Danny’s movies, his TV specials or series, his radio series, or his records. A few, alas, never were and, of those, the one he performed most frequently was a spoof of an Indian meditation master, “Yogi.” The song was written for Kaye’s stage act in the 1950s by Herbert Baker (possibly assisted by Fine, since she often teamed with Baker).

Imagine Danny with a Middle Eastern accent, singing:
I--------------am Yogi
From Cooch-Behar
Sing song in nasal voice
Accompanied by nasal catarah
Nya-nya-nya all night and all day
Like a bleating lamb
People think I’m Robert Goulet
And sometimes I am

(Talking) Permit me to introduce myself.
My name is Ocleoole (gibberish).
I must modestly tell you, I am
Number One Television Star in India.
India birthplace of television.
We have original cast of “Untouchables.”
I must also modestly tell you that my show is most popular in India.
All Yogis wait for my show on pins and needles.
Name of show, “Rawhide.”

(Singing) Every morning as the sun rises
I give Yogi exercises
On the tee-vee in my bee-vee
Dees and does that follow
My recommendation swallow
My sponsor’s creation
Made especially for men and wives
Who plan to lead at least seven lives.
The only product of its ilk,
Re-incarnation milk.

(Talking) What do Yogis recommend for pain of
Neuralgia, neuritis, misery, colds,
Headache, and nagging neckache?
Pain is good for you! Pain is just
Nature’s way of saying… OUCH!

First principle of Yogi—
Assume Lotus position.
First principle of Lotus position—
Do not cross legs till you come to them.

Second principle of Yogi.
Most difficult exercise of all.
Are you breathing more and enjoying it less?

Third principle of Yogi.
Eliminate bad habit. Bad habit very bad for you if habit bad… (continues on with this nonsense as long as he can milk it).

(Singing) Anything that’s habit bad for you they say
Breathing is a habit
Stop it right away

(Talking) You will find, ladies and gentlemen,
When you stop breathing how very simple
It is to give up smoking.
Final principle, most important of all.

(Singing) If you have a navel,
Sit and contemplate it.
I contemplate it, I hate it.
One day while contemplating navel
Happy as can be—
Suddenly I find my navel contemplating me

I----------am tired
Of being Yogi
Control, control,
I’m finished with control.
I sing, I’m gay,
I laugh all day.
I’m happy as a clam.
People think I’m Danny Kaye.
And sometimes I am.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Danny Kaye: The Saturday Morning Cartoon Series?

Kaye's work on Here Comes Peter Cottontail nearly led to his own animated TV series.

In the early 1970s, Danny almost hosted his own animated TV series. Almost.

A Saturday morning cartoon series focused on a classic movie comedian was nothing new. Hanna-Barbera produced a collection of Laurel and Hardy cartoons in 1966-1967, and an Abbott & Costello series in 1967-1968. In 1966, Filmation made an unsold pilot of a Marx Brothers cartoon series and a few years later produced Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down.

By this time in his career, Kaye was amenable to the idea of appearing in cartoons, but not the slapdash, limited-animation of Filmation. He preferred the slightly more refined look of TV specials like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Chuck Jones) and the stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin-Bass). Unable to get his own Dr. Seuss show sold in the 1960s, Kaye finally agreed to Rankin-Bass’s offer of $12,500 to host Here Comes Peter Cottontail.

They were so happy with the Easter special, they began pitching a weekly animated series, starring Danny as the narrator, Hans Christian Andersen. The first season was to feature the likes of Rip Van Winkle, Rumplestiltskin, Treasure Island, Raggedy Ann, Jack Frost, Heidi’s Christmas, A Hans Christian Andersen Christmas, Gilbert & Sullivan, Marco Polo, Punch and Judy, Puss ’n Boots, The Road to Oz, The Little Juggler, Johnny Appleseed, World of Toys, and Marco Polo.

ABC was in, at least for the pilot, but demanded it be something intrinisically Andersen. So The Emperor’s New Clothes became the subject of the first episode of The Enchanted World of Danny Kaye. Unfortunately, due to its cost and moderate reception, it would be the final episode, as well.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sylvia Fine Kaye... Kaminsky

Danny wasn't the only Kaminsky in the family for his first three years of marriage.

When Sylvia Fine married Danny Kaye on January 3, 1940, she didn’t take the name “Kaye,” because legally his name was still David Daniel Kaminsky. So, she took the name Kaminsky—although, like Danny, she would never advertise it.

For three years, in fact, her legal name was Sylvia Kaminsky until, on January 22, 1943, Danny and Sylvia jointly submitted paperwork to change their names from Kaminsky to Kaye.

They were weeks away from heading for Hollywood, where his new life as movie star and international celebrity was about to begin.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Danny's Lost Film Perhaps His Greatest

Danny's one-man show was taped when he played the Greek Theatre in 1962.

As wonderful as Danny Kaye’s performances could be on film, television and records, few would argue that his genius shone most brightly on stage. He had a powerful way, like few others, of connecting with his audience so that thousands of guests would leave the theater convinced that Danny had spent an hour playing especially for them. They were convinced he shared a part of himself with them.

I saw him perform live but once—at his final show, comically conducting at the Hollywood Bowl in 1987. But it was his celebrated one-man show, developed in the 1940s, perfected in the 1950s, and performed to sold-out audiences until the end of the 1960s, in which he truly excelled.

Unfortunately, there are no recordings of these shows, apart from a handful of snippets, mostly silent, shot for British newsreels.

With some creativity, a good editor could cobble together a reasonable facsimile of the content of a typical show. He always performed several numbers he made famous on film, such as wife Sylvia Fine’s specialty numbers, like “Anatole of Paris” and “Pavlova,” and songs from Hans Christian Andersen. A considerable number of his stage bits made it the three television specials he made in 1960, 1961 and 1962, in most cases performed exactly as he would on stage (unlike in the movies, where the numbers had to be reworked to fit into the plot). And, his stage act’s trademark “sit down spot” became the regular, episode-ending feature of his weekly TV series.

Yet, there was one performance of Danny’s one-man show that was in fact recorded, in its entirety. It was in July 1962. Kaye was appearing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. At the time, producer Jess Oppenheimer was gathering ideas for Kaye’s third TV special (which would be taped three months later). Oppenheimer was convinced that the best way to present Danny in his special would be to carry over the charm, magic and spontaneity that came across when he was on stage. So, Oppenheimer had his production company, O&O Productions, tape one of Danny’s shows at the Greek, so he and his writers could study it. During his run at the Greek, Danny performed an assortment of old favorites, a few new numbers he was breaking in, and, probably for the first time ever, his brand-new “Dodgers Song.”

After the special aired, Oppenheimer retained the tape, hoping to be reimbursed for the cost of producing it. This would lead to a back-and-forth between Oppenheimer and Dena Productions lawyer Simon Bricker. The Kayes, it turned out, weren’t nearly so upset about the money as they were that a tape of Danny on stage even existed. They demanded that the tape be erased. “Obviously we would not like to have a tape of Danny’s performance at the Greek Theatre floating around,” Bricker explained.

Presumably, as part of their deal, Oppenheimer erased the tape—and in doing so may have obliterated the greatest hour Danny Kaye ever recorded.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Danny's Monkey Tale

Danny Kaye tries to make nice with his simian co-star from Merry Andrew.

Although he was brilliant at playing off of children, Danny Kaye supposedly never worked well with animals, no matter how well he and his primate co-star seemed to click on screen in Merry Andrew (1958).

Consequently, a few years later, when his weekly variety series began, the writers were discouraged from including bits for animals on The Danny Kaye Show. Nonetheless, one crew member who owned a dog threw a party for co-workers and friends at his home. Dozens upon dozens upon dozens of guests arrived. The party went on for hours. Danny was the last one to show up. He stayed the shortest amount of time. Yet he was the one who got bit by the dog.

Inevitably, came an episode containing a sketch that featured a trained monkey. As the series' script secretary, Maggie Warren Scott, shared in her unpublished memoirs, When It Was Fun:

Danny loved George Bye, our prop man. He loved all the small potatoes, but hated the big brass. One week we were doing a spy sketch and it had been a very difficult week for poor old George. We taped on Saturday nights and Friday was camera blocking all day and music rehearsal in the evening. 

Henderson was the name given to this monkey that was in the spy sketch and his report day was on Friday. George was standing near his prop box in one of the corners of the stage, mumbling to himself, "That monkey comes in for two days and probably makes more money than I do and I've been here all week killing myself!" 

Danny overheard this and said, "Well, George, that monkey's smarter than you!" 

There was a lot of laughter from the crew. We started rehearsing the sketch. Henderson was a spy and he was in a cage dressed in a little skirt with a little hat on. The cage was like a big birdcage hanging on a pole with a curtain draped over it. Danny was supposed to go over to the cage, lift the curtain, and give Henderson a message, which Henderson was then supposed to relay to another spy. 

The next day, show day, the audience was in and we started the sketch. George was over by his prop box. In the middle of the sketch, Danny crossed over to Henderson's cage and lifted the curtain. Henderson turned, gave Danny a look, lifted his skirt, and with this big smile on his face, blew the loudest fart you ever heard right in Danny's face. 

 Way off in the corner you heard, "That monkey IS smarter than I am!" You could not control the crew; you could not control the audience. That one went down in history.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Danny Kaye Show's Wish List

Jose Ferrer was one of the first guest stars targeted early on by the producer to appear on The Danny Kaye Show.

In the spring of 1963, when producer Perry Lafferty and his writers were trying to think up what a Danny Kaye variety show should be, they figured every episode should feature at least one high-profile guest star.

Laffery compiled a list of his top choices. “We are trying to secure the following people for guest appearances on the show,” the producer wrote in a May 27 memo to his staff. “Naturally, we won’t get them all, or even half of them, but, for various reasons which we have discused together, we feel that each one of them has something to offer us.”

The Stars Lafferty Got
Of the 24 stars the producer targeted early on, he was able to personally sign seven of them:

• Jose Ferrer (the actor who replaced Kaye on Broadway in Two by Two was an early yes, starring in show #2)

• Eileen Farrell (the soprano was a frequent soloist with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, and Danny wanted to perform an opera parody. She appeared on show #12.)

• Terry Thomas (gap-toothed English comedian, who appeared in show #18)

• Buddy Ebsen (his Beverly Hillbillies, just finishing its debut season, was the top-rated TV program for the year. But The Danny Kaye Show wanted him mostly because he could dance. He agreed to appear on show #24, but insisted he get to play his sitcom character, Jed Clampett. But Kaye’s writers thought that using the character would confine them to creating a standard sitcom sketch. Instead, they suggested casting him as Jed’s twin brother. Ebsen worked out so well, he came back for show #37 early in season two and show #69 early in season three, alongside his Davy Crockett co-star Fess Parker and Clint Eastwood.)

• Andy Griffith (although he initially declined, he did agree to a cameo in show #29 to support his Andy Griffith Show co-star Jim Nabors. He returned in a larger role in the fourth and final season, in show #96.)

• Dick Van Dyke—with or without Mary Tyler Moore (Moore clicked so well with Kaye in both sketches and musical numbers, that after appearing in show #6, she was asked back for shows #17, #30 and #41. And, she even consented to a cameo in show #16, starring Van Dyke.)

The Stars Lafferty’s Successors Got
Even after Lafferty left the show after the second season, his wish list remained and his successors were able to come though on a few:

• Caterina Valente (The Italian singer signed on for back-to-back shows early in the third season—#71 and #72—and again midway through the fourth—#103 and #104.)

• Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (Newman declined, but Woodward finally appeared in show #90, late in the third season.)

• Peter Ustinov (The actor finally agreed to appear in show #109, midway through the final season.)

The Stars The Danny Kaye Show Never Got
And then there were the hopefuls on Lafferty’s wish list that never appeared on the show:

• Fred Astaire (Although Lafferty could never book Astaire, he did sign the next best thing—Gene Kelly—for show #5)

• Guilletta Messina (Italian actress, famed from La Strada)

• Melina Mecouri (Greek actress)

• Jose Greco (flamenco dancer)

• Peter Sellers

• Leonard Bernstein

• Lee Remick (Days of Wine and Roses)

• Vivian Leigh

• Laurence Olivier

• Debbie Reynolds

• Anne Bancroft

• Janet Leigh (whose musical Bye Bye Birdie had just premiered)

(Lafferty also wanted to book Ann-Margaret, but had discovered she was unavailable before putting together his list.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Danny's Turn to Poke Fun at Fishel

After Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb profiled Danny in the White Roe program (see last week), Kaye insisted he be given the opportunity to write a fanciful bio for his buddy—getting payback for Fishel tweaking his love life and the size of his nose, while poking fun at his Yiddish and his novelty business.

Phil Goldfarb by Danny Kaye

Fishel Goldfarb was born in the little town of Minsk, right on the border of Galitzy, all in Merry Old England. This accounts for his Harvard accent. The event took place so long ago that he’s almost forgotten about it. It was, however, the first link in the chain of events which brought him to White Roe. Some people say that if he had not been born he never would have come here, but this is mere hearsay, and cannot be proven either way.

Overcoming all adolescent difficulties, our hero grew up to be a powerful, strapping man—all of 128 pounds. Realizing what he had to face in life, he put his nose to the grindstone. This accounts for the size of his nose now. You should have seen it before he put it to the grindstone! This wore him down to a drazzle, but he achieved a sharp edge and a keen brain. Boy, that’s cutting into it.

He went out into the cold, cold, world to decide on his chosen field, and what did he pick? Comebeck balls, wheestles, squawkiss, balloonis, all sorts of novelties. Fishel says the biggest novelty nowadays, is when he sells something.

Having established himself in this field, his doctor decided he needed a rest. It was a case of his working himself down to nervous breakout. So he decided to recuperate (among other things) at a summer resort. So he packed his satzel, and proceeded to White Roe. (Nothing like mentioning the place; it’s our paper, why shouldn’t we advertise in it?)

Meyer Weiner took one look at that Greeshun profile and said, “My boy, you are now our tsotsal director.” So Philip said, “Ho Kay Boss, provided everything you tell me is of-FICIAL.” This sounded very phoneteical—not phoney—phonetical to the ears of the Boss (lookit de kepital letter, Boss) so when he is summoned by the Boss he always calls O Fishel, and ever since that has been his name.

Fishel has been here seven years, they tell him, and has become quite a figure in this establishment. When he first came to White Roe he didn’t have a nickel. Now, through hard work, self sacrifice, thrift, and good judgment, he is the essence of pecuniary success. He now has  a nickel. All credit for this must go to Meyer Weiner. (I’m telling you, you can’t mention the place or the Boss too much.)

Most outstanding about Phil is his remarkable fast mind and nimble with, which is a hint not to become involved in any controversial matter with him. In odder woids, don’t swap de gags.

To proceed in a more seious vein and this is serious, Fishel is through with girls. He’s got himself a hoss. He loves dot noble beast, dot marwellos stelyun, dot fancy steed. His hoss to him is his life. Phil, we may add, is responsible for that touching phrase of affection.

With it all, Phil is a fine and conscientious worker, who has made a great many people permanently White Roe Conscious.

White Roe’s 1933 organizational chart: Owner Meyer Weiner (top left) oversaw art director Nat Lichtman, dramatic director Dick Diamond, dance director Dave Harvey, and social director Phil “Fishel” Goldfarb. Danny Kaye pictured at far right, on top.