Danny Kaye (born David Daniel Kaminsky; 1911-1987) was an American actor, singer, dancer, and comedian. His performances featured physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire novelty songs.
Kaye was born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn, the youngest of three boys for Jacob and Clara Nemerovsky Kaminsky. He was the only son born in the United States.
Kaye starred in 17 movies, notably Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), White Christmas (1954), and The Court Jester (1956). His films were popular, especially his bravura performances of patter songs and favorites such as "Inchworm" and "The Ugly Duckling". He was the first ambassador-at-large of UNICEF in 1954 and received the French Legion of Honor in 1986 for his years of work with the organization.
One of the best examples of Kaye's patter songs is his rendition of the finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture. Kaye performed it on his Danny Kaye Show, which aired on CBS from 1963 to 1967.
The show premiered in black-and-white, but later switched to color broadcasts. At the time, Kaye was at the height of his popularity, having starred in a string of successful films in the 1940s and '50's, made successful personal appearances at such venues as the London Palladium, and appeared many times on television.
His most recent films had been considered disappointing, but the television specials he starred in were triumphant, leading to this series. Prior to his television and film career, Kaye had made a name for himself with his own radio show, and numerous other guest appearances on other shows.
Today's video clip is remarkable, considering the state of technology in the 1960s. We had to watch it a few times, wondering who was playing William Tell's dad, before we realized that Kaye was playing both roles with a bit of camera trickery.
If you'd like to hear the piece played by a full orchestra, we're including a second video of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performing it.
Enjoy, and Hi Yo Silver, Awayyyyyy!