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On This Day in History, January 18: That Kid From Brooklyn

Danny Kaye was born David Daniel Kominski on Jan. 18, 1913, in the East New York section of Brooklyn. His family resided at 250 Bradford St. 

 

Being born on a Saturday is a good omen to religious Jewish families for whom the Sabbath represents a gift from God. He was the third-born of the Kominskis’ children and the first to be born in America, following the family’s immigration from Russia. Kaye’s father, Jacob, had found work in America in a tailoring sweatshop on Manhattan’s Third Avenue.

 

In later years Kaye reflected, “I think I benefited from being born and raised in Brooklyn. That was one of the most cosmopolitan neighborhoods and that was one of the great joys about it. It’s where you learned you didn’t dislike anybody because he was an Italian, a Jew or an Irishman or what else. There were great cultural differences, but you stood on your merits as a youngster.” 

 

He attended P.S. 149 and then Thomas Jefferson High School, which he left in his senior year to become a professional entertainer, performing from 1929 to 1933 as a singer, dancer and comedian in the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains. From 1933 to 1939 he toured the U.S., England, and Asia in a vaudeville troupe, perfecting his art as a pantomimist. 

 

Several months after making his New York City theatrical debut in Straw Hat Revue (’39), he married Sylvia Fine, the writer-composer who provided him with his most successful material. He appeared to great critical acclaim in two musicals, Lady in the Dark (’40) and Let’s Face It (’41). 

 

He made his motion picture debut in the short film Moon Over Manhattan (’35). His other films include Up in Arms (’44), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (’47), Hans Christian Andersen (’52),  White Christmas (’54), The Court Jester (’56) and The Madwoman of Chaillot (’69). 

 

Meanwhile he toured throughout the world, raising funds as ambassador at large for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), entertained American troops stationed overseas and starred in “The Danny Kaye Show” (’63-’67) on TV. In 1970, he returned to Broadway in Two by Two. 

 

On Dec. 2, 1984, Kaye was presented with the Kennedy Center Honor ribbon and medal. 

 

Danny Kaye was selected King of Brooklyn at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Celebration of 1986. His name was also installed on Brooklyn’s Celebrity Path at Brooklyn Botanic Garden. He died on March 3, 1987, in Los Angeles, of heart failure due to hepatitis.

January 18, 2012 - 9:59am


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