The Library of Congress is honoring comedian-actor-dancer-UNICEF ambassador Danny Kaye and his wife Sylvia Fine, by launching a Kaye/Fine website Mar. 19, and presenting free events Mar. 23, accompanying an exhibit "Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn".
Kaye is best-known for his roles in films "White Christmas" and "Hans Christian Andersen", and a signature show-stopping number "Tchaikovsky", in which Kaye rattles off the names of about 50 Russian composers in 39 seconds.
The sandy haired, goofy comic Kaye was also the first goodwill ambassador for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 1954, a position he held during the rest of his life.
It is little-known that Fine played a major role in Kaye's success. She wrote the music and lyrics for more than 100 of Kaye's songs, and managed and produced his many stage and TV engagements during their 40-year collaboration.
The Library’s exhibit and events mark the 100th anniversary of the couple’s birthdays. Kaye claimed 1913 as the year of his birth, although the official birth date is Jan. 18, 1911 and official name was David Daniel Kominski. Fine was born on Aug. 29, 1913.
The exhibit, continuing through July 27, has some 60 items including recordings, photos, scripts, and video clips from "The Danny Kaye Show", "An Evening with Danny Kaye and the New York Philharmonic," the UNICEF film "Assignment Children", and a Kaye-related segment from one of Fine’s three PBS documentaries "Musical Comedy Tonight".
The Mar. 23 events include screenings of five of Kaye's 17 films; remarks by their daughter Dena Kaye, followed by Q&As; and a display of items from the Library's Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. Its 2,000 items will be on the Kaye/Fine website beginning Mar. 19.
Films shown on Mar. 23 are "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty", "Hans Christian Andersen", "The Court Jester", "Knock on Wood", and "The Five Pennies".
Kaye shows "nearly inhuman energy on screen, somewhere between child, machine, and rogue cuckoo clock," according to "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" (Knopf) by David Thomson. The author terms Fine the "brains" behind Kaye's success.
The Library of Congress honors Kaye and Fine not only for their contributions to entertainment, but also for their lifelong commitment to charities.
For more info: "Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn", Library of Congress, James Madison Building, Performing Arts Reading Room Gallery, First Floor, 101 Independence Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. March 23 programs at Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building, Coolidge Auditorium, Ground Level, 10 First Street, S.E., Washington, D.C. All the events and activities are free.