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Huffington Post -- Will two too many birthdays spoil the Danny Kaye centennial celebration?

Huffington Post -- Will two too many birthdays spoil the Danny Kaye centennial celebration?

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Will two too many birthdays spoil the Danny Kaye centennial celebration?

For weeks now all around the country, there have been events honoring that king of jesters and jester of kings, Danny Kaye. In honor of the 100th anniversary of the birth of this legendary entertainer and humanitarian, cultural institutions as varied as the Paley Center of Media in Beverly Hills and NYC's Lincoln Center have been putting together high-profile panels and concerts which then paid tribute to Kaye's creative legacy.

Take -- for example -- those outdoor screenings of Kaye and Bing Crosby's holiday classic "White Christmas" that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented with faux snowfall back in December. Or just this past weekend, when 10 of Danny's movies were shown at the Pasadena Convention Center as part of the first-ever Danny Kaye Film Festival. Better yet, starting this Sunday at 6 a.m., Turner Classic Movies will be devoting a solid 24-hour block of its schedule to airing many of Kaye's motion picture and television appearances.

Yeah, it's been over a quarter of a century since we lost Danny back in March of 1987. Yet there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who still have extremely fond memories of this American icon. Especially in the Big Apple, where "The Kid From Brooklyn " was born back on January 18, 1913. Which is why today -- on the presumed 100th anniversary of Danny's birth -- New York City officials will be declaring January 18, 2013, Danny Kaye Day.

Mind you, what I've described above is just the start of a year-long celebration of Kaye's life and career. Among the other high points will be a "Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids From Brooklyn" exhibit, which will be opening on February 14 at the Library of Congress. The 56 artifacts on display here will not only pay tribute to Danny's talents but also acknowledge his wife Sylvia's contributions.

After all, it was Ms. Fine who wrote the music and lyrics for many of those tongue-twisting songs that Kaye became so famous for. And it was Sylvia who masterminded much of Kaye's career. Which is what kept Danny in the spotlight long after many of his show business contemporaries had simply faded away.

Of course, a big part of the Danny Kaye legend has to do with this entertainer's allegedly meteoric rise to fame. As Fine and Kaye liked to tell the tale, Danny got his start at the tender age of 16, tummling in the Catskills. By September of 1939, Kaye made his Broadway debut in "The Straw Hat Revue." It was also the first big-time credit for Sylvia, the show's composer and lyricist, whom Danny had met at a nightclub revue earlier that year. Weeks after "The Straw Hat Revue" closed, in January of 1940, the two married. And, little over a year later, Kaye rocketed to fame thanks to a high-profile supporting role in the Kurt Weill / Ira Gershwin musical, "Lady in the Dark."


Danny Kaye (center) in "Lady in the Dark"

To become a star on Broadway at the age of 28 was a very big deal back then. Which is why Danny and Sylvia made a point of telling this story to every newspaper columnist and TV and radio reporter who might listen. Which then made Kaye's obviously enormous talent seem that much bigger, given that Danny had broken through into the big time at such a relatively young age.

There was only one problem with the story that Kaye and Fine liked to tell. It wasn't true.


Sylvia Fine and Danny Kaye

So what exactly was wrong about the tale that Danny & Sylvia  told? To get the answer to that question, you can either click on the headline at the very top of this page or follow this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-hill/danny-kaye-centennial_b_2501031.html?utm_hp_ref=entertainment

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