Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine worked tirelessly in nearly every corner of show business. After a successful Broadway run at the beginning of Kaye’s film career, the duo moved into other realms, including radio, recordings, and television.

The Danny Kaye Show on Radio

With the success of his new film career, Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine decided that expanding into the radio market, as many other actors were doing, was the next logical step. Kaye was hired for a half-hour show on CBS sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Danny Kaye Show began airing at 8 p.m. EST on Saturdays in January 1945 and ran for two seasons. The show was a variety program that featured sketches, songs, musical performances, and comedy. The second season featured more recurring elements, such as characters played by Kaye and costars including actors Eve Arden (1908–1990) and Lionel Stander (1908–1994). In the end, radio proved not to be the best medium for Kaye, whose performance depended greatly on a mix of physical comedy and acting; however it did allow him to hone his vocal talents, both as a singer and an actor.

Script from The Danny Kaye Show (radio) from March 1, 1946. Cover page and page 3. Guest stars: Orson Welles and Georgia Gibbs. Writers: Goodman Ace, Sylvia Fine, Bud Gagnon, and Henry Howard. Page 2. Music Division, Library of Congress (020.00.00 and 020.01.00)

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The Danny Kaye Show on Television

When his film career began to taper in the early 1960s, Danny Kaye ventured into the world of television. In 1960 he premiered the first of three annual television specials, sponsored by General Motors, on CBS. The specials received rave reviews, causing CBS to hire Kaye for a regular series. The Danny Kaye Show ran for four seasons. The show was a variety program that featured sketches, guest performances, singing, dancing, and monologues by Kaye. Major stars such as Lucille Ball, Louis Armstrong, Vincent Price, and Mary Tyler Moore were often guests and performed in sketches with Kaye. The Danny Kaye Show was a huge success, enjoying top viewer ratings for much of its four-year run.

CBS News press information for October 13, 1964: Lucille Ball, John Gary are “The Danny Kaye Show” Guest Stars Nov. 4. Music Division, Library of Congress (021.00.00)

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"The Balloonists"

The Danny Kaye Show was set up as a variety show. This enabled Kaye to explore his many performing gifts: singing, dancing, acting, and comedy. The wide variety of guest stars―actors, dancers, singers―allowed him to combine his talents with their specialties. Lucille Ball was the perfect guest star for Kaye appearing in both a regular series episode (November 4, 1964) and the final of the three CBS Specials (November 11, 1962). In the season two episode, Kaye and Ball performed skits, sang songs, and danced in a humorous number titled “The Balloonists” in which they frantically ran around the stage popping hundreds of balloons.

Contact sheet of Lucille Ball and Danny Kaye performing “The Balloonists” on The Danny Kaye Show, Nov. 4. Music Division, Library of Congress (022.00.00)

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In the Studio and on the Air

The successes that Danny Kaye found on the Broadway stage and in Hollywood led him to expand his career into other media. Since his repertoire of songs, mostly saturated with Sylvia Fine numbers, was growing in recognition with each film release and performance, it was only natural that he would join the recording artists of the time. The first experience in the studio was with Columbia Records in which he recorded songs from Lady in the Dark. In 1947 he started recording songs from his stage show and films for Decca Records and continued through the early 1960s. The recordings were released as singles and as compilations.

Danny Kaye and David Kapp in the Decca recording studio to record “Tubby the Tuba,” May 13, 1947. Photograph. Music Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00)

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Decca Records

Decca records provided Kaye not only a chance to record popular songs of the 1940s and 50s, it also allowed him the opportunity to record music from his films further promoting his work. This first film that Kaye recorded songs from was The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 1947, the Samuel Goldwyn Company. “The Liddle Fiddle” was a song written by Sylvia Fine for the film and the band leader Johnny Green.

Sylvia Fine, composer. Johnny Green, arranger. “The Liddle Fiddle/ Symphony for Unstrung Tongue,” ca. 1947. Holograph manuscript. Music Division, Library of Congress (023.01.00)

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"The Liddle Fiddle"

“The Liddle Fiddle,” also titled “Symphony for Unstrung Tongue,” exemplifies the unique style of song Sylvia Fine composed for Danny Kaye’s unique talents. The song is a fast changing narrative that has the singer creating different voices for an array of characters. The melody, tempo and mood change frequently as the song is more of a story than a straight aria. This same style was used in many of her pieces such as “Ludivig von Stickfitz,” “Pavolva,” and “The Maladjusted Jester.”

Sylvia Fine, lyricist. “Little Fiddle/ Symphony for Unstrung Tongue,” ca. 1947. Typed lyric sheet. Music Division, Library of Congress (025.01.00)

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