The centennial of the entertainer's birth is being celebrated - not just for his classic musical-comedies and his tuneful collaborations with his wife, the composer and lyricist Sylvia Fine, but also for his timeless contributions to humanitarian missions, such as the United Nations International Children's Fund.
The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., is hosting an exhibition titled, "Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids From Brooklyn," which charts the course of their lives and stage and screen careers, from "patter songs" to USO Shows, and to Kaye's service as UNICEF's first Goodwill Ambassador.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
Danny KayeDavid Daniel Kaminsky grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. He was a high school dropout who spent his summers performing for vacationers at resorts in the Catskills, eventually adopting the stage name Danny Kaye. "He was always just silly, always wanting to entertain people," his daughter, Dena Kaye, told correspondent Michelle Miller.
"Up in Arms"In 1941 he got his big break: a role in the Broadway play, "Lady in the Dark," in which he performed what became one of his signature songs, a ditty about Russian composers. "He did it very, very, very, very fast, and it stopped the show," said Dena Kaye. "He could sing, he could dance, he was funny, he was dramatic, he was moving, he was silly, he was all of those things."
And Hollywood took notice. Kaye appeared in several short films before starring in the 1944 musical-comedy "Up in Arms," playing a hypochondriac GI opposite Dinah Shore.
Fine & KayeAt an audition in 1940, Kaye met fellow Brooklyn native, musician and songwriter Sylvia Fine. The two collaborated -- and married. "Most couples can't work together -- how did they make it work?" correspondent Michelle Miller asked Dena Kaye.
"With difficulty," Dena replied.
The couple later separated, but never divorced - and together they raised their daughter.
Sylvia FineSylvia Fine wrote or co-wrote many of Danny Kaye's songs, including "Knock on Wood," "(You'll Never) Outfox the Fox," and "The Five Pennies."
"They're kind of referred to as 'patter songs,' " said Dena of Kaye's most famous ditties. "I call them her 'intellectual tornadoes.' "
"Anatole of Paris"Danny Kaye sings "Anatole of Paris," a patter song by Sylvia Fine.
"I'm Anatole of Paris.
The hats I sell
Make husbands yell
"Is that a hat,
Or a two-room flat?"
"Concerto for Tongue and Orchestra"The sheet music for "Concerto for Tongue and Orchestra," by composer Sylvia Fine, arranged by Buddy Breuman.
Dena and DannyDanny Kaye with his daughter, Dena.
"I really had a normal childhood," Dena Kaye told Miller. "I mean, yes, Cary Grant came to the house, and yes, I asked Frank Sinatra to come to my graduation party and he showed up and I was thrilled, but I mean, we lived in the same house from 1947 until I sold it in 1991. I'd never been to an Academy Awards. I went to normal schools."
"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"One of Kaye's earliest hits was "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (1947), in which he played James Thurber's day-dreaming Everyman, who envisioned himself as a schooner captain, surgeon, Mississippi gambler, RAF pilot, and a cowboy.
"A Song Is Born"Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo starred in "A Song Is Born" (1948), a Technicolor musical remake of the screwball comedy "Ball of Fire," which starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.
"The Inspector General"In the musical-comedy "The Inspector General" (1949), Danny Kaye played a traveling gypsy who inadvertently steps into the shoes of a petty official. The film was based (loosely) on a play by Nikolai Gogol. With Barbara Bates (left).
"The Inspector General"Danny Kaye with Elsa Lancaster (left) and Barbara Bates in "The Inspector General" (1949).
"On the Riviera""On the Riviera" (1951) starred Danny Kaye along with Gene Tierney, Corinne Calvet and Marcel Dalio.
USO TourDanny Kaye entertains the troops of the 5th RCT, 24th U.S. Infantry Division, during a USO Show near Kumsong, Korea, November 6, 1951.
Throughout the 1940s, '50s and '60s, Kaye participated in shows for service members, making trips to Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
OkinawaDanny Kaye talks to an injured U.S. soldier, Capt. John S. Douerfel of Oklahoma, at a military unit at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan in 1961.
"Hans Christian Andersen"Danny Kaye as the Danish storyteller in the musical "Hans Christian Andersen" (1952). The film earned six Oscar nominations, including for the song, "Thumbelina."
New York CityThe scene outside the RKO Palace in New York City during performances of a variety show starring Danny Kaye in 1953.
"Knock on Wood"Danny Kaye starred as a ventriloquist in the 1954 comedy "Knock on Wood."
LondonDanny Kaye on stage at the European premiere of "Knock on Wood," at the Plaza Theatre in London, April 23, 1954.
"White Christmas"The musical "White Christmas" (1954), featuring songs by Irving Berlin, is one of the most beloved of holiday classics, as it tells the story of two Army buddies (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) who join forces as entertainers after the war. Rosemary Clooney gets in on the act.
"White Christmas"Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" (1954).
UNICEF Goodwill AmbassadorIn 1954, Danny Kaye was named a goodwill ambassador-at-large for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). Throughout his lifetime Kaye worked to raise awareness - and money - for children's issues by traveling the world on behalf of UNICEF. Kaye's 1956 film, "Assignment Children," documented the work of UNICEF in Asia.
"He didn't become UNICEF's first goodwill ambassador because it was the 'right thing to do,' " said Dena. "He did it 'cause he felt it."
Left: Kaye visits a little boy in a New Delhi hospital during a UNICEF tour in 1954.
In March 1955 Kaye received an honorary Oscar for "his unique talents, his service to the Academy, the motion picture industry, and the American people."
"The Court Jester"Danny Kaye's 1995 musical-comedy "The Court Jester" (1955), also starred Glynis Johns and Angela Lansbury.
"The pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true."
"The Court Jester"Basil Rathbone (left) and Danny Kaye duel in the comedy "The Court Jester" (1955).
"Merry Andrew"Danny Kaye played a student who falls into a traveling circus - and the arms of Pier Angeli - in the 1958 musical, "Merry Andrew."
Los AngelesDanny Kaye conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Los Angeles Music Center, November 10, 1974.
"My father was a man who had a life outside his career," Dena Kaye said. "He was a pilot. He was a chef. He was an orchestra conductor." In fact, Kaye was that rare orchestra conductor who couldn't read a single note of music.
Conductor"Itzhak Perlman, the amazing violinist, said, 'Danny got a better sound out of the orchestra than many conductors did,' " Dena Kaye recalled.
Left: Danny Kaye conducts the Yale Symphony Orchestra, April 24, 1976.
"Me and the Colonel"Danny Kaye played a Polish Jew, and Curt Jurgens an anti-Semitic Polish army officer, both trying to flee Paris ahead of the Nazi invasion, in the 1958 film "Me and the Colonel."
Kaye, who won a Golden Globe for "On the Riviera," won his second Golden Globe for "Me and the Colonel." He was nominated three other times - for "Hans Christian Andersen," "The Court Jester," and the 1981 TV film, "Skokie."
"The Five Pennies"Sheet music from the 1959 musical "The Five Pennies," starring Danny Kaye and Louis Armstrong. It featured songs by Sylvia Fine, including "Lullaby in Ragtime," "Follow the Leader," "Goodnight - Sleep Tight," and the title song, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
"The Five Pennies"Barbara Bel Geddes and Danny Kaye in "The Five Pennies" (1959).
"On the Double"Danny Kaye played an American GI facing court-martial and a British officer -- who looked exactly the same! -- in the comedy, "On the Double" (1961).
"On the Double"Dana Wynter gets the drop on one of two characters played by Danny Kaye in the comedy, "On the Double" (1961).
UNICEFDanny Kaye appears with children in Atlanta, Ga., during his UNICEF Trick-or-Treat Tour in 1966.
During the mid-1960s, Kaye - an amateur pilot - flew himself to cities across the U.S. to collect donations from children acquired during UNICEF's Halloween drive.
"The Madwoman of Chaillot"Danny Kaye was featured in the satire, "The Madwoman of Chaillot" (1969), which starred Katharine Hepburn and co-starred Charles Boyer, Yul Brynner, Richard Chamberlain, Edith Evans, Paul Henreid, Giulietta Masina, and Donald Pleasence.
Kaye's later appearances include TV productions of "Peter Pan" and "Pinocchio." In the 1981 TV movie "Skokie," based on true events, Kayed played a Holocaust survivor who leads a protest against Nazi demonstrators in Skokie, Ill.
Peabody AwardDanny Kaye and Sylvia Fine in 1980, holding Fine's George Foster Peabody Award for her PBS special, "Musical Comedy Tonight," which featured performances by and interviews with key Broadway figures, including Carol Burnett, Richard Chamberlain, Agnes de Mille, Sandy Duncan, Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters and Bobby Van.
Academy AwardDanny Kaye was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, March 29, 1982, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.
After receiving his honorary Oscar from Gregory Peck, Kaye quipped, "I'm so delighted that I find myself, as we say, trembling. If I were any more delighted I think I'd be in an institution."
Carnegie DeliAs part of the Danny Kaye Centennial, Dena Kaye attended the ceremonial slicing of the Danny Kaye Deli Club, a triple-decker corned beef on rye with yellow mustard, turkey, cole slaw, Russian dressing and pickles, which was inducted into the sandwich menu of the famed Carnegie Deli in New York City, April 29, 2013.
"The Court Jester"In addition to the release from Paramount of four Danny Kaye movies on iTunes - "The Court Jester" (left), "The Five Pennies," "Knock on Wood" and "On the Double" - the Danny Kaye Centennial (which continues through early 2014) celebrates the entertainer and humanitarian with events held by UNICEF, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, the Paley Center for Media, Sirius XM Radio, the Museum of the Moving Image, and The New York Pops, concluding with UNICEF's presentation of the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award in January 2014.
For more info:
U.S. Fund for UNICEF: Danny Kaye
Exhibit: "Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids From Brooklyn" at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Through July 27, 2013)
"Danny Kaye: King of Jesters" by David Koenig (Bonaventure Press)
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan