Wednesday, September 10, 2014

How Many Danny Kaye Show Episodes Are There?

1945 signage promotes CBS Radio's new Danny Kaye Show, featuring Danny and singer Kitty Kallen, who often accompanied the house band, Harry James' Orchestra. Image courtesy Cary Ginell.
The first Danny Kaye Show (the one on radio in the 1940s, not the TV series of the 1960s) has always had a murky history. Each show was broadcast once with no plans to ever air it again, except occasionally chopped up and inserted into wartime radio programs, to entertain the troops overseas. No good records were kept. And none of the episodes were titled.

Over the years, tapes of some episodes did filter out into the public. Copies were bootlegged and distributed under homemade titles like "Danny Goes to Washington, D.C." Distributors dated the episodes by looking back at old program guides or newspaper listings to match up synopses.

Unfortunately, only about 18 episodes made it into circulation (although it may have seemed like more, because a single show may have been released under two or three different titles). At least one researcher did try to reconstruct the show's history and, by counting up the number of weeks between the series' first airing and last, estimated there were 58 broadcasts. Yet, he admitted he had no inkling of what aired on about a dozen of the weeks (a couple weeks no show aired, such as in the wake of FDR's death).

Fortunately, Kaye kept reel-to-reel recordings of most of the shows and scripts for all of them in his personal collection, which his heirs later donated to the Library of Congress. Piecing them together, my answer is there were 50 actual episodes of The Danny Kaye Show, spanning two seasons from January 1945 to May 1946.

But there's a hitch: a week before the series began, a small number of stations did air a "practice show," to help the cast and crew get comfortable. So, you could say 51.

And then, there were the six shows that aired under the Danny Kaye Show banner, on the Danny Kaye Show station, in the Danny Kaye Show time slot, and that were listed in program guides as The Danny Kaye Show. They just didn't have Danny Kaye on them or involve the show's regular cast and writers.

What happened is Danny had agreed to travel overseas on a six-week USO tour, departing at the end of September 1945. Unfortunately, the second season of his radio show had been scheduled to premiere September 28. So, Kaye did the season opener as a live remote from a War Fund workers rally in Chicago, then had other radio performers fill in with a show of their own.

The first week, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland filled in. They had recently done a couple radio shows together and had just begun work on the film Till the Clouds Roll By.

For week two, Goodman Ace created a new episode of Easy Aces, the series he starred in with his wife, Jane, for 15 years prior to becoming the new director/head writer for The Danny Kaye Show.

The next week it was Burns and Allen, whose show aired the night before, also on CBS. In Danny's slot, they performed an entirely new script, but in the format of their own program.

A week later, Jack Benny and his regulars did the same thing. Benny's regular show, however, aired on NBC, but Kaye had appeared on The Jack Benny Show the year before and would appear again the following year.

Week five saw Kaye replaced by Duffy's Tavern (another NBC show) and week six Eddie Cantor (who also had a show on NBC, but guest-starred on the very first episode of The Danny Kaye Show and, a year later, would replace pal Danny as host of Pabst Blue Ribbon's series).

So, that might make 57 shows.

No matter you count them, they're all profiled, with behind-the-scenes stories, in my book Danny Kaye: King of Jesters.

1 comment:

  1. This is Interesting, David... the radio shows are good but a little manic, too much git-gat-gittle for me.. but Danny was young and energetic. (The radio shows appear online somewhere because I've heard them.) He calmed down by the time he did the TV shows by which time he was so suave and mature..more info on those, please.. thanks!