THE SECRET LIFE OF DANNY KAYE by Michael Freedland

THE SECRET LIFE OF DANNY KAYE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Not all that secret, and most of Kaye's sins are on the side of the angels anyway. But a cheery, pleasant, eventually sad bio that sees no way back for Kaye--now 73--as a manic entertainer. David Daniel Kaminsky was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who had a driving need to entertain. As a teen-ager he broke into the Catskills' Borsht Belt circuit as a comedian and fairly quickly was supporting himself. He joined a touring company that took him to China and Japan, then at war with each other, where he added to his fantastic store of double-talk (he speaks--fluently--11 languages which no one can understand). Then he met Sylvia Fine, a dentist's daughter who had a genius for offbeat lyrics and tunewriting. They were phenomenally successful, married early, and remain married despite one brief separation. The Kayes battled a lot in rehearsal and on the set, but Danny nearly always came around to Sylvia's way of thinking. He found he was a man with his wife's head on his shoulders, and rebellion was fruitless. Kaye leaped from towering Broadway successes as a master of fractured French and other mock languages and magnificently adroit physical comedy, to the lead in Samuel Goldwyn's film Up in Arms, then was off and running in a series of successes topped by The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Meanwhile, in person he lifted the roof off the London Palladium and the New York Paramount and was lauded to the nth power by commoner and royalty. Then he became serious, with Hans Christian Andersen, and striving for more mature humor, forever mislaid the manic madcap he was first adored for wearing. Since then he's become a world-class Chinese cook, holds an airline pilot's license, is a knockout golfer, table-tennis player, ball team owner, orchestra conductor and fundraiser, goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and entertainer of children. There's the occasional TV or stage comeback, but various illnesses--including a quadruple bypass--have slowed him down. Kaye did not contribute to this book, but it's better than average as a celebrity bio, with no special spin on its language or ideas. One misses a few quotations from Sylvia's lyrics, whose twisty brilliance younger readers will have to take on faith.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1986
Publisher: St. Martin's