For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on RCN TV with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
It’s hard to get through the Christmas holiday season without seeing the annual classic White Christmas or humming a few bars from one of the unforgettable Irving Berlin penned songs from that film.
A large part of that movie’s success came from the outstanding song and dance talents of Danny Kaye, whose career spanned 54 years working in film, television, radio, theater, voice acting work and as a humanitarian.
David Daniel Kaminsky was born in Brooklyn, New York, on January 18, 1911 (though he would later claim to be born in 1913).
According to Jack Benny’s autobiography “Sunday Nights at 7,” Benny saw Kaye performing stand-up in a small club in New York City and instantly found a kinship with him, citing the need to “help out a fellow Jew” in the entertainment business.
Benny ended up being a mentor for Kaye, helping him further his career in movies, paving the way for Danny to star in 17 films overall. Among his best include The Kid From Brooklyn, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Inspector General and Hans Christian Anderson.
Kaye’s movie success lent him to have his own successful radio program for two years in the mid-1940s, which did affect the performer’s ego.
Famed Hollywood biographer Arthur Marx (son of “Groucho”), retells a story in which Kaye gave his writers a tongue-lashing after a first-read of their script for his show, complaining that they gave all the best laughs to his guest stars and had too few funny lines for him.
Marx reports that Kaye ended his rant by sarcasting asking his writers if they thought he should become the highest paid straight man in the entertainment industry. After an extended, awkward silence fell over the room, one of his writers spoke up and quipped, “no, you’ll never be Jack Benny.”
One of Kaye’s biggest objectives in the early 1950s was to co-star with legendary actor/crooner Bing Crosby.
Kaye finally got his chance with White Christmas when Fred Astaire bowed out of the production. Astaire, who had previously retired but was considering a comeback before the film went into full production, said he couldn’t recreate his role as Crosby’s partner from Holiday Inn. He also said the scheduled dance routines were now too far beyond his abilities and would be able to star in the film. Then Donald O’Connor was cast but also had to drop out to do illness, opening up the door for Kaye to step in.
Although both the film and Kaye’s performances as both a singer and dancer were lauded, co-star Rosemary Clooney indicated that Kaye was overall saddened by one aspect of the holiday classic. On the film’s DVD in-movie commentaries, Clooney states that Kaye was extremely disappointed that he couldn’t strike up a long-standing friendship with Crosby and the two never worked together again.
Despite that personal setback, Kaye would continue to have great success in television, winning Emmy and Peabody awards for his own TV show in the mid-1960s and had a number of stellar performances on the silver screen until 1969.
He continued making guest appearances on television specials throughout the 1970s in addition to having success as a pilot, a chef and in several business ventures. He also endeared himself to a new generation by providing the voices for three different characters in the holiday cartoon, Peter Cottontail.
Kaye gave numerous performances for soldiers overseas during war time in the 1940s and 1950s and was very giving of his time through charitable efforts over the last three decades of his life. He was the first ambassador-at-large of UNICEF in 1954 and years later received the French Legion of Honour for his years of work with the organization.
Kaye still showed great comedic timing in his final acting performance when he made a guest appearance on the nation’s number-one television show at that time, The Cosby Show, in 1986.
Kaye died less than a year later after complications from hepatitis C. He was 76.
Before you watch White Christmas this holiday season, be on the lookout for Kaye’s starring role in the 1949 film, The Inspector General, along with his guest starring roles on classic television shows on RCN-TV. To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN-TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on RCN-TV, check out the weekly listings here on our website.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.