Danny Kaye left school at the age of 13 to work in the so-called Borscht Belt of Jewish resorts in the Catskill Mountains. It was there he learned the basics of show biz. From there he went through a series of jobs in and out of the business. In 1939, he made his Broadway debut in “Straw Hat Revue,” but it was the stage production of the musical “Lady in the Dark” in 1940 that brought him acclaim and notice from agents. Also in 1940, he married Sylvia Fine, who went on to manage his career. She helped create the routines and gags, and wrote most of the songs that he performed. Danny could sing and dance like many others, but his specialty was reciting those tongue-twisting songs and monologues.
Samuel Goldwyn had been trying to sign Kaye to a movie contract for two years before he eventually agreed. Goldwyn put him in a series of Technicolor musicals, starting with Up in Arms (1944). His debut was successful, and he continued to make hit movies such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947) and The Inspector General (1949). In 1954, he appeared with Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954), which was based on the Irving Berlin song of the same name. In 1955, he made what many consider his best comedy, The Court Jester (1955), with the brilliant Pellet with the Poison routine. Like all things, however, the lifespan of a comedian is limited and his movie career waned. In 1960, he began doing specials on television and this led to his own TV series, The Danny Kaye Show (1963), which ran from 1963 to 1967.
Some of his last roles were also his most memorable, such as an intense Holocaust survivor in Skokie (1981) and as a kind but goofy dentist in an episode of The Cosby Show (1984). He also worked tirelessly for UNICEF.
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