Library Launches Kaye/Fine Website March 19 and Holds Danny Kaye Events March 23
Danny Kaye was a versatile American actor and comedian, who enthralled audiences in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s with his lively singing and dancing—on stage, on television and in films such as “White Christmas” and “Hans Christian Andersen.” His wife, Sylvia Fine, played a major role in his success, writing the music and lyrics for his songs and artfully managing and producing his engagements.
Their careers will be celebrated in a Library of Congress exhibition “Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn,” which opens Thursday, Feb. 14 in the Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery on the first floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington D.C.
The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8:30 a .m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. It will be on view through July 27, 2013.
On March 19, the Library of Congress will launch a website featuring 2,000 items from the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection, which is housed in the Library’s Music Division. The Library acquired the collection in 1992.
On Saturday, March 23, the Library will hold events focusing on Danny Kaye—film screenings, lectures and displays from the Kaye/Fine Collection. Further details will be announced in February.
The Library’s exhibition and events mark the 100th anniversary of the couple’s birthdays. Kaye claimed 1913 as the year of his birth, although his official birth date is Jan. 18, 1911, and Fine was born on Aug. 29, 1913.
The 56-item exhibition will feature a broad range of materials, including music holographs, typed lyric sheets, performance materials, scripts, correspondence, business papers, photographs, programs, recordings, videos and more. The items are drawn from the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection and the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division.
The exhibition’s video station will display clips from “The Danny Kaye Show,” “An Evening with Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic,” the UNICEF film “Assignment Children” and a scene from Fine’s documentary “Musical Comedy Tonight II” that includes Kaye’s show-stopping number “Tchaikovsky” from “Lady in the Dark,” in which he rattles off the names of some 50 Russian composers in 39 seconds.
In addition to their success in the entertainment industry, Kaye and Fine were dedicated humanitarians, who spent much of their free time promoting charities. Most notably, in 1954 Kaye became the first goodwill ambassador to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), a position he held the rest of his life.
Born in Brooklyn, Kaye started in show business as a teenager at the resorts in the Catskill Mountains. In 1939, he joined the cast of a short-lived revue called “Sunday Night Varieties.” There, he met Sylvia Fine who was composing, writing, and playing piano for the show. The two bonded emotionally and professionally – they married in 1940.
In 1941 Kaye appeared in the hit Broadway musical comedy “Lady in the Dark.” His performance in the show rocked the theater world and propelled him to fame. In 1942, on Broadway, he starred in Cole Porter’s musical “Let’s Face It!” He became a standing-room-only draw at the largest and most prestigious venues, from the Roxy Theater in New York to the London Palladium. He made 17 films, including “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1947) and “The Court Jester” (1956). His gifts as an actor led him to many different projects beyond film and stage, including recordings of popular songs, hosting his own television show and conducting major symphony orchestras across the world.
Fine, also born in Brooklyn, was a graduate of Brooklyn College, where she studied music. She evolved into the consummate show-biz professional, mastering every aspect of behind-the-scenes work from writing scripts and songs to organizing and producing performances. She wrote more than 100 songs for Kaye during their 40-year collaboration. Fine also took her knowledge of theater to the academic world by teaching classes on the history of musical comedy at the University of Southern California and Yale University. Later, she created three PBS specials on the subject, “Musical Comedy Tonight.”
The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 151.8 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.
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