Born to Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn as David Daniel Kaminski, red-haired Kaye became one of the world's best-known comedians. In 1941 he appeared in the Broadway show, Lady in the Dark and performed the famous number "Tchaikovsky," by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin, in which he sang the names of a whole string of Russian composers at breakneck speed, seemingly without taking a breath.
He was propelled to what today would be called superstardom in 1948 when he appeared at the London Palladium music hall. According to The New York Times, he "roused the Royal family to shrieks of laughter and was the first of many performers who have turned English variety into an American preserve." Life magazine described his reception as "worshipful hysteria" and noted that the royal family, for the first time in history, left the royal box to see the show from the front row of the orchestra.
Kaye made his film debut in a 1935 comedy short subject entitled Moon Over Manhattan., although his feature film debut was Up in Arms (1944). He starred in several movies with actress Virginia Mayo in the 1940's, and is well known for his roles in films such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), White Christmas (1954), Knock on Wood (1954), The Court Jester (1956), and Merry Andrew (1958). Kaye starred in two pictures based on biographies, Hans Christian Andersen (1952) about the Danish story-teller, and The Five Pennies (1959) about jazz pioneer Red Nichols.
Kaye also worked in television. He hosted a variety hour on CBS, The Danny Kaye Show, from 1963 to 1967. He also guest-starred in episodes of The Cosby Show and of the 1980's remake of The Twilight Zone.
Kaye was the original owner of the Seattle Mariners along with his partner Lester Smith, from 1977 - 81.
Kaye also acted in a pantomime production of Cinderella, in Sydney,New South Wales, Australia, during the 1950's, where he played the role of "Buttons", Cinderella's stepfather's servant, and also Cinderella's friend.
In many of his movies, as well as on stage, Kaye proved to be an able actor, singer, dancer and comedian, often having his comedic talents showcased by special material written by his wife, Sylvia Fine. He showed quite a different and serious side as Ambassador for UNICEF, and in one of his few dramatic roles in the memorable TV-movie Skokie, in which he played a Holocaust survivor. Before he died in 1987, Kaye also demonstrated his ability to conduct an orchestra during a comical, but technically sound, series of concerts organised for UNICEF fundraising. Kaye received two Academy awards, an honorary award in 1955 and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1982.
Joan Plowright, widow of the actor Laurence Olivier, claimed that Olivier had a long homosexual relationship with Kaye while Olivier was still married to his second wife, Vivien Leigh. Kaye's widow denied these rumors.
- Moon Over Manhattan (1935) (short subject)
- Dime a Dance (1937) (short subject)
- Money On Your Life (1938) (short subject)
- Getting an Eyeful (1938) (short subject)
- Cupid Takes a Holiday (1938) (short subject)
- Up in Arms (1944)
- Wonder Man (1945)
- The Kid from Brooklyn (1946)
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
- Screen Snapshots: Out-of-This-World Series (1947) (short subject)
- A Song Is Born (1948)
- It's a Great Feeling (1949) (Cameo)
- The Inspector General (1949)
- On the Riviera (1951)
- Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
- Assignment Children (1954) (short subject)
- Knock on Wood (1954)
- Screen Snapshots: Hula from Hollywood (1954) (short subject)
- White Christmas (1954)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Beauty (1955) (short subject)
- Screen Snapshots: Playtime in Hollywood (1956) (short subject)
- The Court Jester (1956)
- Merry Andrew (1958)
- Me and the Colonel (1958)
- The Five Pennies (1959)
- The Millionairess (1960) (Cameo)
- On The Double (1961)
- The Man from the Diner's Club (1963)
- The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)
- "Parnell of the Palladium," Willi Frischauer, Oct. 24, 1948, p. X3. The London Palladium and Kaye's reception.
- Danny Kaye bio, quotes Life magazine.