Monday, February 11, 2013

Prelude to Valentine's Day: Danny Kaye the Romantic

One unfortunate misconception that has arisen over the last 20 years is that Danny Kaye was perpetually remote, dispassionate, uninterested in love, and sexually confused.

Certainly, I have no undercover video from Kaye’s bedroom. I never witnessed him out on a date. None of us can know for certain what he did with whom behind closed doors. But going by the testimony of his closest friends and co-workers, Danny had a deeply passionate, romantic side to complement his frequently withdrawn side.

Admittedly, over the last 50 years of his life, onlookers saw few public displays of romance. Although Kaye clearly loved his wife, there’s no evidence that he was ever in love with her. Best as I can tell, Danny cared for Sylvia Fine, he admired her talent, and he was indebted to her role in his career. Yet after they married, Kaye’s future wooing would involve Other Women and usually take place away from publicity cameras.

Danny's six-year affair with Eve Arden (clubbing with, at left, Humphrey Bogart) was one of Hollywood's worst kept secrets in the 1940s.

Most notably, within two years of marrying Sylvia, Danny began a torrid, six-year affair with Eve Arden. Eve eventually left her husband for Danny. Shortly thereafter, Danny left Sylvia for Eve, but returned home six months later. He vowed to never leave Sylvia again, but not to be faithful.

In the years before he met Sylvia, Danny was like the other young bucks employed by the White Roe Resort of the Catskills—he was expected to keep the guests entertained, particularly the young females. So, as Kaye’s skills as a performer improved, so did his reputation as a ladies’ man.

His first “head-over-heels” romance began in 1933 during a break from White Roe, on a cross-county-turned-Asian tour with the A.B. Marcus troupe. He met a tall, blonde, 23-year-old dancer named Holly Fine (no relation to Sylvia) and fell madly in love.

But even after Danny left the tour at the end of 1934 and then returned to White Roe in the summer of 1935, he continued writing to Holly on an almost daily basis—and calling her whenever he could commandeer the phone in his boss’s office.

The long-distance romance continued in fits and starts over the next several years, until Holly finally left the tour in 1939 and settled down in Florida, where she married a local grocery store owner. About the same time, Danny became permanent partners with Sylvia. But Holly would always treasure her letters from Danny and, after she died in 1998, her estate donated many of her papers to the University of Michigan.

On Valentine's Day, we’ll peek into some of those touching love letters…


  1. Sounds great... Will be nice to hear about Danny's romantic side..

  2. The man in the picture with Kaye and Eve Arden is not Bogart.