Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Danny Kaye’s Two Sets of Screen Tests

Producer Sam Goldwyn wanted to make sure Danny (and one particular Goldwyn Girl) were ready for their close-ups before filming started on Up in Arms.

Soon after signing his five-picture deal with Sam Goldwyn to come to Hollywood, Danny Kaye agreed to report to the studio a year early—in August 1942, during the summer hiatus of his hit Broadway show, Let’s Face It—to make a series of screen tests. Those tests, which resulted in Goldwyn bleaching Danny’s hair blond and almost forcing him to undergo plastic surgery on his nose, are covered in my book, Danny Kaye: King of Jesters.

But what I did not mention is that Goldwyn later had Kaye undergo a second series of screen tests before he would allow the cameras to officially begin rolling on his first movie, Up in Arms.

After Let’s Face It closed in the spring of 1943, Kaye relocated to Hollywood to begin preparing for his first feature film role. He was originally supposed to star alongside a Broadway revue performer, Virginia Mayo, but Kaye’s wife, Sylvia, protested. Goldwyn agreed to consider casting another unknown, Constance Dowling, in her place and relegating Mayo, for this one picture, to featured “Goldwyn Girl.” Mayo then would be promoted to co-star for Danny’s four remaining films.

Goldwyn insisted, however, that Mayo be included in the stars’ color tests, which were filmed to sync the Technicolor and to make sure all the leads looked and sounded perfect.

Principal photography was set to begin June 21, 1943. On May 10, the studio produced Color Test A with Kaye, Mayo, Dowling, Dinah Shore, and Dana Andrews running through lines inside a hospital room.

On May 20, under the supervision of director Elliott Nugent, they filmed Test B on the dock and inside Dr. Hamiliton’s office. This time, only Kaye, Mayo and Andrews were needed. No Dowling.

And on June 14, Color Test C featured Kaye, Mayo, Dowling, Shore and Lenore Aubert.

The next several days included make-up tests, wardrobe tests, dialogue rehearsals, and posing for color stills. For all of them, Goldwyn made sure Kaye was joined by Mayo—providing her with perhaps one of the most exhaustive preparations for a bit part in movie history.


  1. I always like that scene where all the soldiers and Goldwyn Girls (as WACs) are singing and marching to the song "Fall Out for Freedom".
    That's a great number. It's very stirring and makes one feel patriotic and remember the incredible sacrifices that our parents generation made for our freedom during WWII.
    As they are singing, the camera pans through the line of Goldwyn Girls, finally reaching the end of the line and there is Virginia Mayo, singing along. (I wonder if that was intentional by Goldwyn.) She looked great in that Army WAC uniform...

  2. Yes, all of the many shots of Virgnia Mayo throughout the movie are intentional. The camera dwells on her a little longer than the other girls, it keeps going back to her, she's always front and center. Goldwyn had to prove to Sylvia what a natural Virginia was.