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Danny Kaye Honored, Remembered

5 Dec, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Danny Kaye

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Danny Kaye: actor, singer, dancer, comedian, gourmet chef, symphony conductor, humanitarian … and dreadful at rehearsing. At least that’s according to those who knew him best.

“My mother said he was a terrible [rehearser],” said his daughter Dena Kaye, speaking at a tribute event for her father. “But she said, ‘Believe me, once he gets up there, he’s going to be great.’”

To kick off a yearlong celebration marking the centennial of Kaye’s birth, a standing-room-only crowd visited The Paley Center for Media to hear from Kaye’s colleagues and watch clips of his Emmy-winning variety series “The Danny Kaye Show” (CBS, 1963–67).

Kaye may have been best known for film (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Hans Christian Andersen, The Court Jester, White Christmas) but it was his variety show that earned the attention Dec. 5. Inception Media Group released Christmas With Danny Kaye on DVD in late November, marking the first time “The Danny Kaye Show” has been available on disc.

The disc features two of the show’s holiday episodes, digitally remastered, with guest stars including Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mary Tyler Moore and Wayne Newton. Bonus features include a clip from the Dec. 22, 1965, episode featuring Danny reading from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

“It was a very special time that nobody thought of as historical while they were making it,” said noted film critic Leonard Maltin, speaking about the variety shows that Kaye and others produced.

Carl Reiner, creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” had his own prolific career to tout, but said he has always put Kaye up on a pedestal.

“I wanted to be Danny Kaye, and I tried so hard,” he said. “I did the next best thing: I became Carl Reiner. I adore [Danny].”

Tony Charmoli, choreographer of “The Danny Kaye Show,” said Kaye never had a dance lesson in his life, yet worked in an amazing routine in every show, while producer and director George Schlatter, best known for “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In,” called Kaye a “precision instrument.”

“Danny was there precisely at 8 o’clock, ready to go, and at 9 o’clock, ready to go home,” he said.

In a world where Twitter and other fast-paced media are taking more of our time, and much of it is “overproduced,” the enduring appeal of her father is his “authenticity and simplicity,” noted his daughter, Dena Kaye.

Click here to view photos from the event.

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