Danny Kaye Show, The


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

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About

The Danny Kaye Show, which premiered on 25 September 1963, was designed as a showcase for the multi-talented entertainer who, before appearing on television, was already a veteran of the vaudeville circuit, the Broadway stage, film, radio, and nightclubs. The variety series was not Kaye's first foray into television: a 1957 See It Now program, entitled "The Secret Life of Danny Kaye," documented Kaye entertaining children around the world on behalf of UNICEF, an organization for which he worked for many years. In 1960, Kaye signed a $1.5 million contract for three annual special programs that would set the pattern for his later series. Although these specials were not critically successful, audience ratings (and two Emmy nominations for his second special with Lucille Ball) were sufficient for CBS to offer the entertainer his own weekly series. That same season, veteran performers Jerry Lewis and Judy Garland also premiered variety series, but faded quickly.

Unlike comedians such as Red Skelton or Bob Hope, whose series highlighted their monologues, Kaye's variety hour was similar in scope to Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. Kaye's series was a mixture of sketches and special musical material that showcased his inimitable talents. The series attracted prominent guests who helped Kaye demonstrate his own versatility. He sang scat with Louis Armstrong and calypso with Harry Belafonte, danced with Gene Kelly, and performed in sketches with such stars as actor José Ferrer and comedian Dick Van Dyke.

Kaye's strength was his ability to work with a live studio audience. Most episodes included a "quiet" segment highlighting Kaye's ability to work one-on-one with his audience and provide a sense of intimacy. In this portion, Kaye would sit on a chair at the edge of the stage.

At times, he would tell a story that would highlight his talent for dialects or tongue-twisting dialogue. On other occasions he would engage in conversation with a child (Victoria Meyerick or, later, Laurie Ichino) or a group of children.

The series was produced by Perry Lafferty, who had previously produced variety series for Arthur Godfrey and Andy Williams. Writers for the series included Larry Gelbart (who later created M*A*S*H) and Mel Tolkin, both of whom had also written for Caesar's Hour. Although Kaye's supporting cast did not appear on a weekly basis, they included Harvey Korman, Gwen Verdon, Joyce Van Patten, the Earl Brown Singers, the Clinger Sisters, and the Tony Charmoli Dancers.

In its first season, The Danny Kaye Show garnered three Emmy awards, including one for the show and one for its star. That same season, the series also received a George Foster Peabody Award as one of the best entertainment programs for the year. During the series' four-year run, it accumulated a total of six Emmy nominations.

Despite Kaye's enormous talents and popularity, the series failed to gain a wide audience and never achieved critical success. Considering Kaye's popularity among younger viewers, his late hour time slot (10:00-11:00 P.M.) was a major factor in his mediocre ratings. A lack of direction in the show's format and average material often resulted in childlike antics that some critics felt were inappropriate. In addition, competition from other network programs, such as NBC's Wednesday Night at the Movies and I Spy, contributed to the variety show's low ratings.

However, Kaye remained popular with his audience and legions of fans. In fact, the variety series was imported to the United Kingdom in 1964 for the premiere of the BBC-2 channel and ran there for three seasons.

After his show's cancellation in 1967, Kaye returned to television in a number of special programs, mostly aimed at younger viewers, including Hallmark Hall of Fame's "Peter Pan" (NBC, 1976) and "Pinocchio" (CBS, 1976). That same year, he hosted the Emmy award-winning Danny Kaye's Look at the Metropolitan Opera (CBS, 1976).

His last television appearances were in the Emmy-nominated Live from Lincoln Center: An Evening with Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic (PBS, 1981) and the CBS docudrama, Skokie (CBS, 1981). For both these performances, Kaye was presented with another Peabody award "for virtuoso performances and versatility as a superb clown and as a sensitive dramatic actor." Kaye died in 1987.

-Susan Gibberman

REGULAR PERFORMERS

Danny Kaye

Harvey Korman (1964-1967)

Joyce Van Patten (1964-1967)

Laurie Ichino (1964-1965)

Victoria Meyerink (1964-1967)

MUSIC

The Johnny Mann Singers (1963-1964)

The Earl Brown Singers (1964-1967)

The Tony Charmoli Dancers

Paul Weston and His Orchestra

PRODUCERS

Perry Lafferty, Robert Tamplin

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

96 Episodes

CBS

September 1963-June 1967   Wednesday 10:00-11:00

FURTHER READING

Freedland, Michael. The Secret Life of Danny Kaye. New York: St. Martin's, 1985.

Gottfried, Martin. Nobody's Fool: The Lives of Danny Kaye. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.

Gould, Jack. "Danny Kaye Brightens Home Sets." New York Times, 26 September 1963.

Singer, Kurt Deutsch. The Danny Kaye Story. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1958.

"Soliloquy." Newsweek (New York), 6 November 1961.

"The Wednesday Question: Want to Watch Danny Kaye?" Newsweek (New York), 23 December 1963.

Highlights
Larry Gelbart on writing for the Danny Kaye Show as a one-off for Perry Lafferty
02:41
Tony Charmoli on Danny Kaye rehearsing choreography for The Danny Kaye Show
01:35
Harvey Korman on being a "second banana" to Danny Kaye
02:33
Perry Lafferty on producing The Danny Kaye Show
06:54
Nanette Fabray on appearing on The Danny Kaye Show
02:37
Ron Clark on writing for The Danny Kaye Show
02:33
Who talked about this show

Tony Charmoli

View Interview
Tony Charmoli on choreographing for The Danny Kaye Show
11:52
Tony Charmoli on the writers on the Danny Kaye Show, such as Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin
06:05
Tony Charmoli on commentary on B-roll footage of The Danny Kaye Show
02:45
Tony Charmoli on commentary on B-roll footage of The Danny Kaye Show with Danny Kaye
00:25

Ron Clark

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Ron Clark on writing for The Danny Kaye Show
02:33

William Clotworthy

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William Clotworthy on The Danny Kaye Show
00:43

Tim Conway

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Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on how they met - on The Danny Kaye Show
01:25

Warren Cowan

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Publicist Warren Cowan on publicizing The Danny Kaye Show
00:44

Nanette Fabray

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Nanette Fabray on appearing on The Danny Kaye Show
02:37

Jamie Farr

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Jamie Farr on appearing on The Danny Kaye Show
06:47

Ron Friedman

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Ron Friedman on writing for The Danny Kaye Show
06:24
Ron Friedman on being nominated for an Emmy Award for his work on The Danny Kaye Show, and on leaving the show
01:24

Larry Gelbart

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Larry Gelbart on writing for the Danny Kaye Show as a one-off for Perry Lafferty
02:41

Harvey Korman

View Interview
Harvey Korman on joining The Danny Kaye Show
04:48
Harvey Korman on the format of The Danny Kaye Show
01:14
Harvey Korman on being a "second banana" to Danny Kaye
02:33
Tim Conway and Harvey Korman on how they met - on The Danny Kaye Show
01:25

Perry Lafferty

View Interview
Perry Lafferty on producing The Danny Kaye Show
06:54
Perry Lafferty on the format of The Danny Kaye Show and on The Judy Garland Show
06:16
Perry Lafferty on the end of The Danny Kaye Show
05:03

Angela Lansbury

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Angela Lansbury on her appearances on The Danny Kaye Show
00:33

Robert Vaughn

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Robert Vaughn on guest appearances on other shows in character as "Napoleon Solo"
00:59

Bud Yorkin

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Bud Yorkin on directing The Danny Kaye Show
01:52

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