Danny Kaye

Danny Kaye (born David Daniel Kaminsky; January 18, 1911 – March 3, 1987) was a Jewish-American actor, singer, and comedian.

Kaye was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. His first foray into entertainment was in the Jewish resort area of the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York.

In 1935, he made his debut in a short film, "Moon Over Manhattan," and signed as a comedian for a series of short films in which he played a fast-talking Russian immigrant.

In 1941, he appeared on Broadway in the musical "Lady in the Dark" by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill. His role in the musical was a professional success, and he became particularly well-known for the song "Tchaikovsky," in which he rapidly recited a large number of Russian composer names.

His first feature-length film was "Up in Arms" in 1944, an adaptation of a musical starring Eddie Cantor. Samuel Goldwyn attempted to persuade Kaye to undergo plastic surgery on his nose (due to what he saw as a "too-Jewish" appearance), but Kaye refused and instead had his hair straightened, giving him a distinctive reddish hairdo. Kaye became a star, and his short films were compiled into a feature-length film, "The Birth of a Star," by Goldwyn's competitors.

Kaye starred in a series of films following this success and is especially remembered for his songs "Tchaikovsky" and "The Ugly Duckling" from his film "Hans Christian Andersen." His wife, Sylvia Fine, wrote many of the songs for these films and others. His filmography includes dozens of films where he played roles ranging from dancer to conductor, clown, and acrobat. One of his most famous routines was "The Orchestra," in which he conducted a dialogue with an orchestra while mimicking classical instruments.

Beyond his film career, Kaye appeared as a host and recorded radio and television programs, including a guest appearance on "The Muppet Show" in 1978.

Kaye was also heavily involved in philanthropy and served as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. He volunteered to visit children in hospitals and made numerous trips to Israel, especially during the Yom Kippur War, where he visited wounded soldiers and performed with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in charity concerts.

Danny Kaye passed away from a heart attack in March 1987 after struggling with severe hepatitis. He had undergone a bypass surgery in 1983, which resulted in hepatitis due to a blood transfusion. He left behind his wife, Sylvia Fine, and a daughter. He is buried in Kensico Cemetery in New York.

Honors and Recognitions

    *  Kaye's appearance as the host of "The Danny Kaye Show" won him an Emmy Award in 1963.
    *  In 1981, Danny Kaye received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his contributions to the film industry.
    *  He has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, recognizing his contributions to music, radio, and film.
    *  n 1983, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark awarded Kaye the Knight's Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog for his portrayal of Hans Christian Andersen in the 1952 film of the same name.
    *  In the same year, Kaye received the Golden Boot Award for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment industry.
    *  On February 24, 1986, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for his work with the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
    *  After his death on June 23, 1987, Kaye was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest civilian awards in the United States, by President Ronald Reagan.

In honor of his legacy, a street in Tel Aviv, Israel, is named after him.

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