Actor. His multi-talents led him to success in every facet of show business. Excelling at comedy, impersonation, acting and singing both popular and classical music, his career lasted for over fifty years, from acting on stage in the Catskills to Broadway, early radio and then television. His parents were Russian immigrants and he was born David Daniel Kaminski in Brooklyn the third son and the only one born in the United States. He attended P.S.149, then Thomas Jefferson High School dropping out at age 13 and running away to Florida where he became a 'busker' singing in the streets for money. He traveled to the Catskills, working first for a radio station then performing comedy at camps and summer hotels. He changed his name to Danny Kaye making his Broadway debut in 1939 appearing in 'The Straw Hat Revue' and after venturing to Hollywood made his major film debut in 'Up in Arms.' The notables that followed: 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A Song Is Born, Hans Christian Andersen, The Inspector General and The Court Jester.' He made seventeen movies in his career. His popularity began to decline in the late 1950s but he made a very successful move to television starring in his own hour-long variety program on CBS, 'The Danny Kaye Show.' After cancellation, Kaye continued working sporadically in films, in television and Broadway. He died at age 74 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles of a heart attack after contracting hepatitis, the consequence of a transfusion of contaminated blood during quadruple bypass heart surgery. A Jewish service followed at Hillside Memorial Park, then his remains were cremated. The ashes were given to his lifelong wife Sylvia, who wrote much of his comedy and music during his long career. She kept the ashes and upon her death a few years later, her cremated ashes along with her husband's were placed in the foundation of a bench erected in Kensico Cemetery located in Valhalla, New York. The bench has no names but a bronze plaque is emblazoned with images pertinent to the lives of the couple. His legacy: Humanitarian Danny Kaye in recognition for his labors in the charity field was presented with a special Oscar at the Academy Awards in 1954 and during the ceremonies in 1981 the 'Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.' He was a strong supporter of UNICEF and made many charitable performances on behalf of this UN organization raising millions. He was a diligent contributor and supporter of the New York Philharmonic doing many personal appearances with the proceeds going to the symphony musicians pension fund. To the amusement of Philharmonic audiences, he would appear as a mock guest conductor. Kaye was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award and was presented by fellow actor President Ronald Reagan. His television show 'The Danny Kaye Show' received a Golden Globe Award as well as an Emmy and for good measure The Peabody Award. He was a co-owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. His imprint can be seen today at Grauman's Chinese Theatre as well as a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield
1913–1991 (m. 1940)