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Danny Kaye: Life is a Great Big Canvas

Updated on September 6, 2019
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Danny Kaye paved the way for all musical comedians. His talents were unsurpassed with a love for entertaining.

"Life is a Canvas, Thow All the Paint You Can at it"  ~ Danny Kaye
"Life is a Canvas, Thow All the Paint You Can at it" ~ Danny Kaye

Hans Christian Andersen

The most celebrated actor, singer, dancer, and comedian in the history of entertainment is best known for his physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire nonsense songs.

I have been a huge fan of Danny Kaye ever since I watched him in the celebrated biography, “Hans Christen Anderson.”

I don’t ever recall watching an actor who could actually do it all; sing, dance, act, and play the comedian to its fullest until I saw Danny Kaye.

His perfect pitch allowed his voice to reach new directions every time he performed. He was always pushing his limits and accomplished what he set out to do.

His face and red hair was a definite icon of his era. You knew it was Kaye when you saw him on the big screen. That boisterous laugh that could take you to the top of the mountains could be heard for miles. His childish giggle was infectious and once he started, you were sucked up right along with him.

Kaye had a boyish charm that could melt your heart. Every role he played, from a storyteller to a court jester displayed his charm and talent through and through. He was perfect for the role of Hans Christian Anderson as he personified what the storyteller himself would be. He loved children and had the capability of the Pied Piper himself to lead them where he wanted.

"I became an entertainer not because I wanted to, but because I was meant to" ~Danny Kaye
"I became an entertainer not because I wanted to, but because I was meant to" ~Danny Kaye | Source

Kaye and Ellen

My favorite Danny Kaye movie would be the iconic movie of the holiday season, “White Christmas.” Not because of the storyline itself, but because of the dance and song numbers that were carried throughout the movie by Kaye and Actress co-star Vera Ellen. The two of them were unstoppable. The dance sequence for “The Best Things happen while You’re Dancing” is unmatched even today. The chemistry between Kaye and Ellen were adorable.

The Court Jester

There is one more movie I have always loved watching when I needed a “feel good” movie, “The Court Jester”, which is about a hapless carnival performer who masquerades as the court jester as part of a plot against an evil ruler who has overthrown the rightful king.

The swordfight alone steals the show. The acrobatic flair in which Kaye was able to jump and leap from tables to pillars, etc. were amazing to watch. Keeping in mind that back in “those days”, the actors were actually dancing and 95% of the time did not have stunt doubles.

Kaye would fall in and out of hypnosis during the scene being a frighten little mouse with no clues how to hold a sword to the fearless Giacomo who could sword fight while drinking from his challis and never spilling a drop!

THe Danny Kaye Show
THe Danny Kaye Show

The Danny Kaye Show

Stepping away from the “big screen” and onto the small box of television reminds me of the time watching the “Danny Kaye Show” at the ripe old age of 7 and remembering how much I used to laugh with Kaye and one of his famous co-stars by the name of Lucille Ball. One of the musical sequences with Kaye and Ball was called “The Balloonist.” It is definitely as corny as they come, but the expressions of Kaye and Ball are priceless. It is another prime example of the unmatchable talent of Kaye.

The Legendary Danny Kaye
The Legendary Danny Kaye

A Lengedary Icon

Danny Kaye also had a very serious side to him as well as a generous heart. He dedicated his life off screen to the UNICEF foundation with unlimited fundraisers. As an accomplished pilot, Kaye flew his own Learjet 24 to 65 cities in 5 days to help raise money for UNICEF.

Before his death in 1987, Danny Kaye demonstrated his ability to conduct an orchestra during a series of comical concerts organized for UNICEF fundraising.

With touching only a minuscule of Danny Kaye’s life, this extraordinary man’s career was extensive in the industry. His legendary wit, comedic value, his perfect pitch, and his supreme dancing and acting abilities would be celebrated throughout his life, beyond his life and handed down from generation to generation through the example of what it means to be the “best of the best.”

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