It’s been nearly 34 years since the world lost Danny Kaye—and decades longer than that since his greatest triumphs on film, stage and television. So with each passing year, the world of those who worked with Danny gets a little bit smaller. Sadly, 2020 was no different. Among the notable losses:
Renee “Zizi” Jeanmarie, the French actress/ballerina who broke Danny’s heart in Hans Christian Andersen (1952), died July 20, 2020, in Switzerland. She was 96. She met her husband and ballet partner, Roland Petit when they were 9, and they would become dance partners on stage as well as in Hans Christian Andersen. She also starred on Broadway, in the film Anything Goes (1956) with Bing Crosby, and sang a duet with Kaye, “No Two People,” for the Hans Christian Andersen soundtrack.
Lovelady Powell, 89, the singer/actress who co-starred in the first episode of The Danny Kaye Show, passed away February 2, 2020. Powell was discovered performing her nightclub act in New York by series producer Perry Lafferty, who suggested she become a regular. She was initially signed to appear in two episodes, as a trial. In the premiere episode, her proper manner played to great effect in sketches and songs. But the show immediately realized that her manner was too distinct and not sufficiently versatile for her to be a weekly supporting player. For her return appearance, they limited her to three songs—all of which were deleted and replaced with numbers by Michelle Lee. Powell did go on to a successful singing and acting career, appearing in The Happy Hooker and in a recurring role on The Secret Storm and Dark Shadows.
Tony Charmoli, choreographer for all four years of The Danny Kaye Show and director of Sylvia Fine Kaye’s Musical Comedy Tonight II, passed away August 7. He was 99. From his early years as a stager on Your Hit Parade in the early 1950s, Tony went on to choreograph and direct numerous specials and series for Dinah Shore, Julie Andrews, Bob Hope, Mitzi Gaynor, and many more. In addition to creating the dance numbers for Kaye’s series, he also appeared frequently in them, as part of The Tony Charmoli Dancers. And it was in his kitchen that Danny volunteered to make spaghetti one night and so badly burned his leg that he had to finish the season’s shows bandaged and off his feet.
Roger Beatty, 87, accomplished television writer, died April 6. Beatty got his start as a stage manager for The Danny Kaye Show before hitching on to its replacement, The Carol Burnett Show. He spent the next 20+ years writing and helping direct series and specials for Burnett and friends.
Elaine Baird, who appeared in Danny’s first films, Up in Arms (1944) as one of the original Goldwyn Girls, died November 17, 2020, at age 100. She later appeared in a number of westerns, where she met her future husband, actor Richard Crane. After retiring from show business, Elaine worked in management for Bullock’s department stores.
Carl Reiner, 98, who played Kaye’s friend and neighbor Abbot Rosen in Skokie (1981), died June 29, 2020. Reiner was a comedy legend, starting as second banana to Sid Caesar (Your Show of Shows) in the 1950s, creating The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s, directing movie blockbusters like Oh, God! and The Jerk in the 1970s, and more recently appearing in the Ocean’s Eleven films. He even took the stage next to Dena Kaye in 2013 for a tribute at the Paley Center in honor of Danny’s centennial.
Brian Dennehy, 81, fellow Skokie co-star, died two months earlier, on April 15. A year after appearing as the police chief in Skokie, the burly actor rose to fame as Rambo’s nemesis in First Blood (1982). He would work steadily in high-profile movies ever since, including Silverado, Cocoon and Gladiator.