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WWD: Dressing With Don Loper at New York Pops Celebration

DRESSING WITH LOPER: For tonight’s New York Pops 30th anniversary celebration that will honor her late father Danny Kaye, Dena Kaye wore a dress of her mother’s from the Fifties. The emerald green and black striped Don Loper gown is in such “incredible” condition that she hopes to stage an exhibition to give the designer his due.

As a teenager, Dena Kaye would visit the designer’s Beverly Hill boutique which was next door to Romanoff’s, a popular haunt with the Hollywood crowd in the Forties and Fifties. Known for wearing patent leather shoes and serious black suits, Loper dressed Lucille Ball and Ella Fitzgerald, among others. “Whenever I would visit my mother during on of her fitting in the salon, he would admonish me with, ‘Don’t wear trousers when you come in here, dear,’” Kaye said. “Don Loper is one of the unsung great designers of glam clothes of yesteryear in Hollywood. Some of his dresses are in the LA County Museum.”

Taking in “Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity” at the Met Sunday, Kaye stopped in her tracks in front of a 1865 Monet painting that featured a woman in a hauntingly familiar dress. “I said, ‘My God, that’s my dress,” she said.

Retrieving her mother’s dresses from years ago including some Yves Saint Laurent also brought back memories of that designer. “I once had lunch in Paris with Saint Laurent, Pierre Berge and my mother in the Sixties,” she said, though the details of that occasion were lost on her younger self. “I could tell you what I wore — a very cool black shiny raincoat with black knit sleeves. I saw it in the Saint Laurent exhibition last year in Paris. I wish I still had it today.”

Read the full article at WWD.com

Eye For Film: Danny Kaye Sandwich joins ‘The Woody Allen’ on Carnegie Deli’s menu

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Danny Kaye was UNICEF’s first Goodwill Ambassador, before Audrey Hepburn, and his films, from White Christmas, starring with Bing Crosby, to The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, with Virginia Mayo and Boris Karloff, have become timeless classics. When thinking of Hans Christian Andersen, for many people, his face and voice come to mind. And if you ever wondered if the pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, you should definitely watch the Court Jester duel with the real Ravenhurst, Basil Rathbone. The sandwich “that made Broadway Danny Rose famous – The Woody Allen with lotsa Pastrami,” according to Carnegie Deli’s menu, is now joined by another famous Brooklyn boy, The Danny Kaye.

Anne-Katrin Titze: What would you tell young people who haven’t heard of Danny Kaye to describe your father?

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Dena Kaye: I would tell them that my father was very unique. He was unique in his profession because he could sing, he could dance, he was a comedian, he was a dramatic actor. He was unique because he did so many different venues – he was on stage, he was in movies and on the radio. He was unique because in 1954 he was appointed UNICEF’s first ambassador to the World’s Children. He was the first celebrity to really take on a cause. He paved the way for Audrey Hepburn and Harry Belafonte. He had a whole life outside his profession. He had a baseball team [as part-owner of the Seattle Mariners] he conducted orchestras, he cooked.

AKT: Which explains the sandwich?

DK: He loved authenticity and he loved corned beef on rye. And I love turkey with coleslaw and Russian dressing so that’s the father/daughter sandwich.

AKT: What events to celebrate your father’s legacy are we to look forward to this year?

DK: CBS Sunday Morning will be doing a segment on Fathers’ Day. We’re just planning the events for the fall. There will be something with UNICEF Trick or Treat, the Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award will be in January. In the fall a lot of DVDs of his movies will come out, iTunes will come out.

AKT: Some of the movies that haven’t been around for a while, like Wonder Man, one of my favourites? [Danny Kaye plays twins, one of them a ghost who takes over the body of the other. There should be a special screening of Wonder Man in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, aka ‘Potato Salad’ in the movie].

DK: I can’t say, yet. But a lot of them will be re-released on DVD and are coming out on iTunes, which is wonderful. The whole goal is to bring a new generation. There was a wonderful piece in the New York Times, that talked about how you could learn a little from my father because he was very anarchical but he was also respectful. Some young comedians could learn a little bit from that today. [“Kaye’s brand of humour seems tame today, but it had an anarchic quality that would sit well in the 21st century.” A Brooklyn Jester Had an Enduring Comic Brew That Was True by Neil Genzlinger; Published: April 8, 2013]

Danny Kaye Sandwich – Corned beef, mustard, turkey, Russian dressing, coleslaw and sliced pickles on rye with Dena Kaye. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Danny Kaye Sandwich – Corned beef, mustard, turkey, Russian dressing, coleslaw and sliced pickles on rye with Dena Kaye. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

I wouldn’t call Danny Kaye’s sense of humour tame. The anarchic quality stimulates you to think differently.

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AKT: You are a journalist, you have travelled all over the world. Do you have people quote your father’s famous lines to you in different languages?

DK: I never say who I am. If somebody happens to know who I am… “The vessel with the pestle”, some people of a certain generation might. In other countries, I don’t know. That’s a very good point.

AKT: Especially the Court Jester used to be on TV a lot. I remember seeing it dubbed in German and French. It had a cult following not only in the US.

DK: My father was somebody who could sit with the royalty and he could sit with the milkman, who used to come to the house when you still had milk delivered. He was just an authentic person. Delicatessen sandwiches are not fancy. That’s my father, he was not a snob.

Corned beef, mustard, turkey, Russian dressing, coleslaw and sliced pickles on rye! In honor of the Danny Kaye Centennial, Carnegie Deli, established in 1937, added this new, yet traditional sandwich on their menu. “It’s down-to-earth as my father was,” said Dena Kaye, “he was not a pastrami person.” She is planning a number of events throughout the year to celebrate her father’s legacy as entertainer and humanitarian.

Read the full article at EyeForFilm.co.uk

Wall Street Journal – Pop Arts: Balloons, Songs and Sandwiches

Remembering Danny Kaye—and the Emperor’s New Clothes

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Describing someone or something as “the emperor’s new clothes,” while a little bit dusty, is still occasionally used on the social circuit, mostly because there’s so much artifice and so many people on the make.

Naturally, it has been overtaken by other, less historical phrases—for instance, “phony,” thanks to Holden Caulfield; “he’s such a Ripley,” thanks to Patricia Highsmith, and, more recently, Matt Damon; “count with [or, alternatively, of] no account,” thanks to wherever that came from; and, the old chestnut, “that outfit is just plain ugly and you’re an idiot for wearing it.”

We were reminded about “the emperor’s new clothes” on Monday because the New York Pops were celebrating Jule Styne, Frank Loesser and the centennial of the performer Danny Kaye.

This is kind of inside baseball—what isn’t, frankly?—but growing up, we would watch Mr. Kaye in “Hans Christian Andersen,” a movie (now out on Blu-ray) for which Mr. Loesser wrote such tunes as “Inchworm,” “No Two People,” “Anywhere I Wander” and “Wonderful Copenhagen.”

He also wrote a variation on “The Emperor’s New Clothes” called “The King’s New Clothes,” in which the king wears what he believes is “all together the most remarkable suit of clothes a tailor ever made.” Everyone else agrees, and only a young boy will tell him the truth that, actually, it’s “all together the very least the King has ever worn.”

Do we really have to spell it out for you? The king was naked!

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Situations like this happen all the time in New York, though usually with less public displays of nudity. But sometimes you just can’t tell if an artist is the second coming or just an old bag of bones recycling someone else’s one-trick-pony routine.

Take, for instance, a dinner on Monday to celebrate the relaunch of A Small World, a social-media website for the elite that may have been the Emperor’s New Clothes when it first popped up several years ago. (Facebook FB -0.72% ultimately drowned out its noise.)

At this dinner in Chelsea, there were lots of pretty girls in flowy dresses. The affair was meant to bring attention to the travel focus of the site: At each place setting was a postcard you were meant to fill out with memories of your greatest trip. And dessert involved a cake pop, alone without the stick, hand-painted blue to symbolize the globe, wrapped in a balloon you had to pop with a pin.

Was this the wave of the future in party planning? Or just a shoulder shrug?

Over at the New York Pops Gala, celebrating the symphony’s 30th anniversary, none of the performers, including Donna Murphy, Kelli O’Hara, Liz Callaway and Laura Benanti, tackled “The King’s New Clothes.”

Ms. Murphy, instead, sang “Thumbelina.” Ms. O’Hara did “Inchworm.” Ms. Callaway sang something from “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” also a Loesser musical.

Afterward, they all retired to the Plaza, where a black-tie gala dinner was in session. A big presence here was Mr. Kaye’s daughter, Dena Kaye, who was wearing one of her mom’s vintage Don Loper dresses.

Ms. Kaye splits her time between Aspen and Paris, and is currently in the midst of writing a memoir about moving to France later in life. She was in town for the Pops event, and also for the christening—if that’s the right word—of the Danny Kaye Deli Club at the Carnegie Deli earlier that afternoon.

Mr. Kaye was—who knew?—a consummate chef, and his sandwich is a combination of his and his daughter’s favorite kinds of sandwiches. His: corned beef on rye with yellow mustard; hers: turkey, coleslaw and Russian dressing. “We all thought it would be a good idea,” said Ms. Kaye of the sandwich. “Whenever I am in New York, I’ll get that sandwich.”

Ms. Kaye said that the Pops concert was “magical. The whole goal of the centennial is to have people know his work.”

Did she miss hearing “The King’s New Clothes?”

“I love that song,” she said.

Read the full article at WSJ.com

Examiner – The 30th Birthday Gala for New York Pops Glitters With Stars

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Carnegie Hall was filled to the rafters for the concert celebrating the Collaborations of the Past, Present and Future. Musical Director-Conductor Steven Reineke, as always, was his charming self as Paula Zahn, not only hosted, but showed her other talents playing cello during the evening festivities. The stars came out to sing and, yes, they all shined several glittered with gorgeous outfits of sequins and jewels.

The evening was devoted to honoring three icons: Jule Styne who collaborated with Stephen Sondheim, Bob Merrill, Adolph Green & Betty Comden and Leo Robin; the songs of Frank Loesser and the inimitable entertainer Danny Kaye. The legacy of these great artists formed the basis of an evening filled with talents from Broadway and beyond.

Danny Kaye’s daughter Dena Kaye provided heart-warming historical information about her Dad while a video of his movies and concert performances brought to life the entertainer’s multi-talents. And just yesterday a new sandwich appeared on the menu of the Carnegie Deli – the Danny Kaye Club!

After a rousing opening by the Camp Broadway Kids who appeared on stage and in the aisles, in a medley of tunes from Gypsy, recent Tony Award Nominee Stephanie J. Block (for her role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood), hit home with a resounding “Don’t Rain on My Parade” (Funny Girl), followed by Betsy Wolfe with “The Music That Makes Me Dance” (Funny Girl).

Also a Tony Nominee for her role on Broadway in Cinderella, Laura Osnes sang the poetic “People,” while the sweet vocals of Laura Benanti rang through in “Neverland” (Peter Pan).

Another icon was on board with “My Own Morning” (Hallelujah Baby!), by it’s original owner, Leslie Uggams, who won a Tony Award for her portrayal, bringing the audience to their feet.

The ever-sparkling personality of Megan Hilty proved that “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” (Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).

From Ronald McDonald House, students sang background vocals while the lovely Kelli O’Harasang “Inchworm” from Hans Christian Andersen, with additional backup by the Rockin’ The House Band.
Charming two time Tony winner Donna Murphy gathered up some of the Broadway Camp Kids to relate “The Ugly Duckling,” followed by three gamblers from Guys and Dolls with “Fugue for Tinhorns” – Nick Adams, Will Chase and Max Von Essen.

Seems like the evening was just filled with Tony Nominees as Rob McClure (Chaplin) proved his capabilities in playful song and dance with an adorable “Once in Love with Amy” from Where’s Charley?

One of the purest voices around is Liz Callaway, her exciting soprano soaring with “How to Succeed/I Believe in You” (How To Succeed . . .). Daddy Warbucks himself – Anthony Warlow (Annie) was on hand with a resounding “Rosabella” from The Most Happy Fella.

Steven Reineke has great taste in artists and saved the best for last – the marvelous Marilyn Maye who recently celebrated and celebrated and is still celebrating her 85th Birthday! Looking, as always, perfectly striking, accompanied by Tedd Firth on piano, she sang “Joey, Joey, Joey (The Most Happy Fella) and “Luck Be A Lady” (Guys and Dolls) which culminated in standing ovations.

Many made their way to the Plaza Hotel for the reception and dinner to complete the evening. Oh, what a night!

Read the full article at Examiner.com

Danny Kaye Sandwich Joins The Carnegie Deli

Iconic entertainer and humanitarian Danny Kaye was honored as his namesake sandwich joined the menu of the famed NYC staple in his Centennial year. On Monday, April 29th, Dena Kaye, Danny’s only daughter with his wife and collaborator Sylvia Fine Kaye, joined the staff of the Carnegie Deli for a sandwich cutting ceremony, officially inducting the Danny Kaye Deli Club sandwich onto the menu for all to enjoy.

Renaissance man Danny Kaye is known to most as a star of stage and screen, singer, entertainer extraordinaire and true humanitarian. However, the beloved American icon, who entertained children of all ages in films like White Christmas and Hans Christian Anderson, is far less well known for his culinary talents.

A bona fide Chinese chef whose frequent dinner guests included luminaries from Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, to Frank Sinatra and Henry Kissinger, Danny surely had a sophisticated skill set and palette. His very favorite food though, like Danny, was much more fun and lighthearted. Down-to-earth and simply delicious, Danny Kaye loved the sandwich.
Last night, the NY Pops honored Danny with a tribute concert at Carnegie Hall. This all comes in a year of activities celebrating the Centennial of Danny Kaye in honor of his legacy.

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Danny Kaye To Be Honored With Sandwich

White Christmas star Danny Kaye is to be immortalized on the menu at fabled New York diner Carnegie Deli.

Kaye is to be honored with his own sandwich as fans, family members and friends remember the late star on what would have been his 100th year.

The actor/singer’s daughter Dena will join the staff of the deli on Monday (29Apr13) for a sandwich cutting ceremony.
A spokesman for the diner tells Wenn, “Danny Kaye is known to most as a star of stage and screen, singer, entertainer extraordinaire and true humanitarian. However, the beloved American icon, who entertained children of all ages in films like White Christmas and Hans Christian Anderson, is far less well known for his culinary talents. A bona fide Chinese chef whose frequent dinner guests included luminaries from Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, to Frank Sinatra and Henry Kissinger, Danny surely had a sophisticated skill set and palette.
“His very favorite food though, like Danny, was much more fun and lighthearted. Down-to-earth and simply delicious, Danny Kaye loved the sandwich.”

Read the full article at ContactMusic.com

Deadline Hollywood: Hollywood’s Proud Past Lives Again This Week With AFI, TCM Classic Film Festival And Danny Kaye Centennial

In Hollywood they say ‘everything old is new again’ and that has never been more true this week than with a massive celebration of classic films and stars. There is tonight’s AFI Night At The Movies with 13 classic titles (including Best Picture winners like In The Heat Of The Night and Terms Of Endearment) taking up every screen at Hollywood’s Arclight Theatre complete with in-person introductions from their original stars (Shirley MacLaine, Cher, Sidney Poitier, Sally Field and Harrison Ford among them). There is a year-long centennial celebration of the great Danny Kaye and a reminder of his talent at year’s end with the Fox remake of a Kaye classic, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. And starting Thursday with the World Premiere restoration of Funny Girl, the 4th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off its four day run in Hollywood.
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Even as competing fests this week at Tribeca and in San Francisco try to steal the spotlight for new films from a new generation, The Turner Classic Movies fest has become a big deal focusing on the past. And not only for the network, but as a signature event where studios can show off new digital restorations of classic films with the same hoopla that might have accompanied their original premieres. Though its stars Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif won’t be attending the Funny Girl restoration’s premiere at the Chinese Theatre tomorrow night (Sharif is in Europe; Streisand is sending a statement to be read by TCM host Robert Osborne) many vintage stars including festival honorees like Eva Marie Saint, Ann Blyth, Max Von Sydow and numerous others are expected to walk the red carpet. Competing for attention across the street at the Hollywood Roosevelt Pool will be TCM’s pristine digital presentation of 1958′s South Pacific with stars Mitzi Gaynor and France Nuyen on hand. TCM’s longtime talent exec, Darcy Hettrich has the herculean task of turning out all the great stars of Hollywood’s past that keep these fans buzzing.

For TCM Fest Programming Director Charles Tabesh (whose day job is as SVP programming for the network) the restorations have become an important part of the festival’s brand. “There is just something very special about it. You are seeing these movies restored for the first time in these beautiful movie palaces. I think a lot of people look forward to that and I think we have a very good relationship with the studios. We are a place where they want to premiere some of these restorations which is great. I think it works well for both of us”, he told me when we spoke earlier this week.

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Among the restored premieres in addition to Funny Girl are a 50th anniversary digital makeover of The Great Escape (1963), Buster Keaton’s silent masterpiece The General (1926), Giant (1956), On The Waterfront (1954), The Big Parade (1925) and Terrence Malick‘s underrated Badlands (1973). Beyond the restorations the trick is for Tabesh, Managing Director Genevieve McGillicuddy and their staff to try and get the best 35MM prints available for films that haven’t yet met the digital age, and often they discover further proof of the sad state of film these days. “It’s a definite problem. It’s also an issue in that we have to have certain theaters equipped for digital and certain theaters equipped for 35MM, so where a film plays in the festival is often a function of what format we can get the film in, not just how popular I think it might be”, he says adding that often they have to go to private archivists to find a decent print when the studios don’t have one.

This year’s theme is Cinematic Journeys which Tabesh says has several sub-categories such as Lovers On The Run (1967′s Bonnie And Clyde is showing), Riding The Rails (1952′s The Narrow Margin), The River As A Road (Marilyn Monroe in River Of No Return) or even Journeys Of Self Discovery (1968′s The Swimmer in which mentally ill Burt Lancaster travels from pool to pool) to name a few examples. Honorees in addition to Von Sydow (The Seventh Seal), and Blyth (Mildred Pierce) are documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Salesman) and Jane Fonda who will be on hand for a special screening of On Golden Pond as well as getting her hand and footprints in the Chinese Theatre’s forecourt right next to her father’s. The packed schedule, which comprises single showings of over 80 films (with five or six usually overlapping at all times), the tributes and special programs are available on the TCM Film Festival website. On Sunday the fest will also show the World Premiere of a documentary on the late Richard D. Zanuck, Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking with his widow Lili Fini Zanuck participating in a Q&A with filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau.

Tabesh says the fest has become as much a convention as a place to show classic movies and upwards of 25,000 fans come in from around the country and the world (70% of attendees are from out of California and 85% outside of LA). “This is something we had been hoping for from the beginning and I’m glad it has worked out that way”, he says. The El Capitan, Egyptian and Cinerama Dome are venues but home base is the World Famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre which has now officially been renamed the TCL Chinese after a Chinese company won naming rights for a reported $5 million. For purists, and perhaps a good majority of the classic film fanatics who will be filling the place in the next few days, changing the name is kind of sacrilegious but money talks for the new owners. “Given our excellent relationship with the theatre and our desire to have an ongoing relationship with them we are absolutely calling it the TCL Chinese,” said Tabesh although he admitted he might slip in conversation sometimes and still refer to it as Grauman’s.

Although no Danny Kaye films are on the schedule (many played the Chinese when it was Grauman’s), the star who would have turned 100 this year (he died in 1987 at age 74) was the subject of a day- long TCM movie marathon on his actual January 18th birthday and now is the subject of a year-long tribute. It actually started in October with an announcement on the Today Show and has continued with celebrations at the Paley Center which has saluted his TV work, and by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in December with a two-night “Oscars Outdoors” screening of White Christmas. In March the Library Of Congress dedicated the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye website and archives and debuted an exhibit that will also come to Disney Hall at the end of the year. The humanitarian and former Unicef ambassador (with two Oscar statuettes for his work) is getting his own sandwich next week at NY’s Carnegie Deli and more significantly will also be getting renewed attention in December when 20th Century Fox opens its major Oscar contender, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, a contemporary remake of the 1947 film that memorably starred Kaye in one of his true classics. Fox seems to be distancing itself from comparisons to its Ben Stiller version (he directs and stars). And at last week’s half-hour CinemaCon presentation touting the movie, Fox never referred to it as a remake and didn’t mention Kaye’s name once even though the film shares the same premise. Like we said, in Hollywood everything old is new again – even if you don’t want to admit it.

Read the full article at Deadline.com

SNL’s Bill Hader will return to Turner Classic Movies this summer’s showcase

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Tune in alert for SNL actor and writer Bill Hader, who will return to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for a third time this summer to host the network’s popular TCM Essentials Jr. showcase.

Hader will present 13 films that are ideal for parents to introduce to kids, beginning Sunday, June 2, at 8 p.m. (ET) with The Court Jester (1956), a delightful musical-comedy starring beloved performer Danny Kaye.

Read the full article at monstersandcritics.com

NY Times: A Brooklyn Jester Had an Enduring Comic Brew That Was True

To people over a certain age it no doubt seems incredible that people under a certain age have to be told who Danny Kaye was. In the middle of the last century Kaye was one of the country’s biggest stars, working his nimble, quick-tongued brand of comedy into a career that bridged eras and genres: radio, stage, film, records, television. For decades you would have to have lived in a cave to not know his work.
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At the moment Kaye, who died in 1987, is the focus of renewed attention. It is his centennial year, according to the birth date he used (though he was actually born in 1911, as David Koenig, author of the new biography “Danny Kaye: King of Jesters,” has noted). Various events have been celebrating his work and that of his wife, Sylvia Fine, a lyricist and composer who wrote many of his best-known songs. The Library of Congress in Washington has an exhibition called “Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids From Brooklyn” on view through July 27, and last month it held a gala to mark the opening of an archive and Web site dedicated to Kaye and Fine.

A lot of the centennial attention has been on Kaye’s film career, movies from the 1940s and ’50s like “The Court Jester,” “White Christmas” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that captured him in his prime. His television work, in contrast, can tend to be shrugged off, much of it coming in the archaic-looking variety-show format (“The Danny Kaye Show” ran from 1963 to 1967) and its cousin, the star-centered special.

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But look more closely at some of these television clips (YouTube has a smattering, and more are coming in DVD releases), and Kaye seems to have one of his fast-moving feet in the present after all. Here is a Kaye clinic of sorts: lessons for young comedic performers, drawn from specific TV appearances:

BREAK THE RULES; DEFY EXPECTATIONS

Kaye’s brand of humor seems tame today, but it had an anarchic quality that would sit well in the 21st century. Evidence of that can be found in his first appearance as the mystery guest on “What’s My Line?,” from 1960 or so. In a regular segment on that show a panel of celebrities would try to guess the identity of a mystery guest — that is, a fellow celebrity — while blindfolded.

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Kaye turned the proceeding on its head, refusing to answer the panelists’ questions with anything but a nod or a grunt, giving false answers as often as true ones. (At one point he tried to get the host, John Daly, to identify him as a baseball player.) The panelists — Tony Randall, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Dorothy Kilgallen — were flummoxed, guessing Harpo Marx, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud. “The most dishonest mystery guest we’ve ever had,” Cerf said when Kaye’s identity was revealed. Daly said the appearance was the first time Kaye had ever been on live television. So from the start he was subverting the medium a bit even while working in its mainstream.

PLAY WELL WITH OTHERS

Kaye and Fine’s daughter, Dena Kaye, of course has a number of favorite Kaye moments, but one from television that she singled out recently in an interview was a duet he did with Louis Armstrong on an early-1960s program. They reprised a number from the 1959 movie “The Five Pennies,” a version of “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” with ridiculous patter lyrics by Fine.

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The television clip is better than the movie version, both men utterly at ease. Although some accounts have said Kaye could be difficult, there was rarely any evidence of that in front of the camera, and certainly none in this clip.

“You see my father’s ability to work with another star, and you never feel he wants center stage,” Ms. Kaye said. “He didn’t have to outshine anybody.”

That’s a quality — of comedy, of performing in general — that sometimes seems in short supply today. Practically every late-night talk show host could use a refresher course: Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Stephen Colbert and others have a tendency to step on their guests’ moments. Their interruptions might be amusing, but probably not as amusing as a shared spotlight would have been.

INCONGRUITY IS COMEDY GOLD

It was the mid-1970s, and the folk-pop singer John Denver was at the height of his popularity when Kaye was the guest on one of Denver’s television specials. Kaye by this time was well known for his work with Unicef, and he did a bit that began with his telling the host that everywhere he traveled for that charity he heard people singing Denver songs.

Kaye, a master of foreign and made-up accents, then proceeded to demonstrate how Denver’s songs sounded in the Caribbean, England, the Soviet Union. By the time he was done, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” “Sunshine on My Shoulder” and “Country Roads” were in tatters, having been rendered in preposterous accents and rhythms that were the antithesis of the syrupy Denver sound. It was a delirious comeuppance for the somewhat pretentious Denver, one with which he happily went along.

KNOW THE INTELLIGENCE AND TOLERANCE LEVEL OF YOUR AUDIENCE

As Roseanne Barr found out the hard way in 1990 when she sang a disrespectful version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a San Diego Padres game, humor works only if you can read the crowd properly. Kaye had the temerity to bring slapstick into that most somber of chambers, the concert hall, and yet not only survived but also thrived.

His comedic conducting served him well for decades, and by the time of “An Evening With Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic,” a “Live From Lincoln Center” performance in 1981, he had already proved that he could make classical-music audiences love him. Still, watching this performance leaves you startled at its brashness: Kaye made fun of the orchestra, the art of conducting, the audience and more, but his obvious knowledge and appreciation of classical music gave him the latitude to do so. As Seth MacFarlane perhaps learned from the reaction to his recent turn as Oscar host, there’s a difference between merely mocking and mocking as a form of homage.

Kaye returns to the concert stage, in a manner of speaking, on April 29 when he is to be honored along with Frank Loesser and Jule Styne at a New York Pops concert at Carnegie Hall. Assorted other Kaye events are also yet to come.

“My overall goal is to get the work out,” Ms. Kaye said. The best of it is certainly worth a fresh look.

Read the full article at NYTimes.com