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“Memo To My Husband”—Sylvia Fine & Danny Kaye

An exciting and very important thing happened to you this year, Danny—you grew up!

There have been other important and exciting events and developments in your life this past year (the most topical being Irving -Berlin’s “White Christmas” in which you co-star with Bing Crosby and, on the distaff side, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen). But of them all, the most important is that you have grown not only in your profession but also within yourself.

It took you quite a time to grow up.

At first, and for some years after you made “Up in Arms,” “Wonder Man,” “Kid from Brooklyn” and became a star, you thought you had to project your stage personality all the time. Remove the cap and bells, even for a moment, take off the jester’s costume and they’d find you out. Or so you believed.

“The bubble will burst,” you used to say darkly. “All this will pass away, you’d say, waving your long arms in a gesture that appeared to take in all of Hollywood, including our home and all our worldly goods. “And when it does, I’ll hear voices saying, ‘We’re on to you, feller, the jig is up!’ ”

Of Dena, our eight-year-old daughter, who is unmistakably bright for her age, you often say: “She’s really twenty-four, you know, she doesn’t fool me for a minute!” Of you I used often to think: He’s really nine-going-on-ten, you know, he doesn’t fool me for one single minute!

You reminded me of a wistful little six-foot-tall waif who, having been adopted by rich and doting parents, couldn’t believe that it was not all a dream from which he would awaken.

You were sure you would awaken from the dream you were dreaming in Hollywood Almost from the time we first came to Hollywood, in 1943, we lived on a month-to-month basis in this pleasant, white brick Georgian house in Beverly Hills, which we now own. And not until Dena began to grow up would you buy the place.

“We’re transients in Hollywood,” you’d say, “why buy? We belong in New York. Any day now we’ll be off and away . . .”

You didn’t believe in yourself—or in your Star. You most certainly did not believe your own publicity. You still don’t. You didn’t think people liked you. You never dreamed they could love you. It was not until you began to realize they did that the turning point came for you. . . .

It began to come, I believe, after the astounding personal success you had, seven years ago, in London.

It certainly astounded you. A few years before, on tour with Sally Rand, which included an engagement at London’s Dorchester Hotel, you excited little attention. Characteristically, you expected more of the same when you went back for your second try. Instead, you received the greatest welcome of your career. Remember, we’d come out of the theatre, or a restaurant, any hour of the day or night and find the street crowded—with kids, of course (The Pied Piper of Hamelin would be a natural for you); but also with substantial looking citizens of both sexes and all ages and all of them calling, “God bless you, Danny!” And when it became known we were soon to leave London, they’d yell, “Take care of him, Sylvia!” as we drove away, echoes of, “Come back soon, Danny, come back, come back!” followed us for blocks.

And remember that time in Glasgow, Scotland, when, on the night of your last performance crowds followed you from the theatre to your hotel, singing “Will Ye Nae Come Back Again?”—a song written in the time of Bonnie Prince Charlie and seldom sung, unless with meaning and emotion, by the Scots?

I know you’ll never forget that little old lady in the audience at the Palace Theatre in New York when you were headlining there a couple of years ago. When she had to leave, she spoke up as familiarly as if to a next-door neighbor in whose parlor she was visiting: “You’ll have to excuse me, Danny—I’ve been, but now I’ve got to go home.”

In an equally next-door-neighborly voice you asked, “What’s the matter, have you got a pot roast on the stove?”

“Yes. And the potato pancakes to be made.”

This touched off a discussion between you, the little old lady and others in the audience about how potato pancakes are made with favorite recipes swapped both sides of the footlights!

Because you love your audiences so, it takes you less than fifteen minutes on any stage, anywhere in the world to make them feel they’re in your living room or you in theirs. You’re folks together, you and your audiences. The things you tell them are not from a file of jokes or from a script, but are off the top of your red-blond head or from within your heart. It’s because of this, I believe, that wherever you go the same homely love of Danny, the man, as well as Kaye, the performer is evidenced. It’s because you love the sound and rhythm of foreign languages and can double-talk them perfectly (although you don’t understand a word!) that you can make audiences in Afghanistan or Akron, Ohio, feel equally at home with you.

Just last summer, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where you played a vaudeville engagement which also combined work for your film, “Knock on Wood,” a mob of 12,000 people stood outside your hotel window chanting, “We want Danny! We want Danny!” And not until you made three speeches from the balcony of the hotel would the crowd disperse.

With all these demonstrations of affection for all these years, at home and abroad, why did it take you so long to realize that the audiences you love also love you? I always felt that the time it took you to reach the top had something to do with it.

You’re often described as an “overnight sensation” but to you this hurts.

“Anything but,” you say in what is for you heated protest (off-stage you’re gentle-spoken, mild as milk). “What no one seems to realize is that, for twelve years before I got my break on Broadway with Gertrude Lawrence in ‘Lady in the Dark,’ I played every whistle-stop in America and beat my brains out all over the world!”

Very few actors—good ones—are “on” once they’re off the stage. Nine out of ten actors shed the ham in them along with their costumes and make-up. But I have never known any performer so completely “off” as my Mr. Kaye once the lights dim and the curtain falls.

In contrast to your energetic, extrovert, high-pressure, zany personality on stage you are, in person, quiet, passive, unassuming and not zany. You walk like a cat, soundlessly. Your voice is low-pitched, gentle, sort of whispery. You don’t talk very much. I talk, you listen—that type!

Yet, when we entertain here at home, which you love to do, or go to parties and you’re called upon to do a number you’re “on” in a flash, with a flash! Given a good audience, whether half a dozen people in our living room or troops numbering thousands in any of the world’s hot spots, you’ll stay “on” until you are wringing wet and your audience wrung out!

If this seems a contradiction, it isn’t. For your modesty is a personal modesty. Onstage, you have true magic, true spontaneity; you are also a very shrewd showman. But you don’t like to show off once the show is over—not even to me. You don’t even tell me half the time about the various awards you receive from organizations and societies in different parts of the world. I sometime go through your jewelry case and find things, with inscriptions on them, which I have never even heard about!

For you, the kitchen is a favorite spot. You’re a great mixer and fixer, a lover of putting together “mysterious dishes” in the Blender—which remain mysterious for neither probing nor prying can induce you to reveal a single ingredient!

Or you like the bright, airy room off the main living room, known as “Danny’s room,” where you make your phone calls, entertain small groups, have your business conferences—and listen to music. The entire north side of the room is occupied by a High-Fidelity sound system which you use mainly to play opera records. You play them so loudly that no one’s voice can be heard above the din, except yours; singing note for note, all the parts of an opera, including the basso’s and the coloratura’s. One of your favorite renditions, which you’ve now taught Dena, is a burlesque of the coloratura soprano in “Traviata.” After we bought the house, we equipped this room of yours with an acoustic plaster ceiling, a tape recorder and spacious floor-to-ceiling shelves where all of your records, including your guest-spots on shows, are kept. In this room, too, all of your orchestrations are done.

The rest of the room is furnished with two immense long low couches, a couple of easy chairs and our only television set, usually with only Dena perched in front of it.

On three sides of your room all the doors and windows open onto the patio and pool area. Supple as you are, you’re a beautiful strong swimmer and use the pool frequently in the summer when you and Dena swim together, but in the winter, “I’ll leave such sports,” you say, “to polar bears and seals!”

You like your comfort. As relaxed as a rag doll at home, you want everything where you can reach it “without a reach.” So our living room (which is separated by wide doors from your room) is informal, with too much furniture, including several sofas upon which you can drop from almost anywhere you may be standing, plenty of big comfortable chairs, a plethora of mahogany tables and ashtrays everywhere, as well as cigarettes and private disposable cigarette holders and bowls of candy. The walls, a pale green, are a restful color.

You’re a home-loving man, Danny, and as I’ve observed that home-loving men are seldom egotists or exhibitionists, this may be another explanation of why it took you so long to realize that your star had risen.

Modest as you genuinely are, you also—being human—and male—have a normal amount of vanity. For instance, when you took up golf and played in the low 80’s within a year, you didn’t exactly hide your light under a bushel about that! Let one of those “mysterious dishes” of yours extract “Ohs” and “Ahs” from our guests and if you’re not preening and prancing, what are you doing? But your greatest vanity is that you know you wear clothes well—as indeed you do—and you can come in from a whole day of golf in denims, no haircut, tousled, sweaty-looking, take a shower, change and, in five minutes, look impeccable! And you cannot understand why I cannot do likewise! Fond of clothes you are, you’re fussy about them and have an extensive wardrobe, lacking only hats which you never wear, and overcoats, which you loathe. On women you dislike earrings and veils so I, not without regret, have given them up. In return, you shun bow ties which I abhor.

We are opposites, you and I. I’m even-tempered; you’re volatile. I’m analytic; you go by instinct. I like steak; you go for lobster. I walk; you run. I talk; you listen. But we laugh at the same things, like the same people, believe that “to live and let live” is the only way. And in spite of being opposite, perhaps because of it, we are happy.

Your other and greater vanity (it isn’t vanity, really, but heartfelt pride) is in the love of Dena, who adores you and plans to marry you.

“When I grow up,” our daughter has more than once confided in me, “I’m going to marry Daddy!”

When she sees you on the screen, it is with mixed emotions. She enjoyed “Hans Christian Andersen,” but she didn’t like you paying attention to all those other children! When she saw you in jail, she cried. And when you sang the Ugly Duckling number to the little boy with the shaved head, she was off again!

When “Knock on Wood” was released, we thought it would be good for her to see it with you. If anything on-screen frightened or disturbed her, it would be reassuring to see you there beside her, safe and sound. According to your report she watched the screen very solemnly until the dead bodies fell out of the closet where-upon she roared with delight! The chase sequence, your presence notwithstanding, she did not like.

“It’s all right” she told you, her hand in yours, “if it’s not your father.”

You understood.

“White Christmas,” without reservation, she loves. When you sing alone, or with Bing or the girls she sits enchanted. When you dance those highly intricate dance routines created for you by Robert Alton (remind me to tell you that they establish you as a great dancer) her eyes, her whole face lights up like a Christmas tree!

Dena’s love of you is, happily, mutual. You’re crazy about Dena (“This is news?” I can hear you say), real crazy. You spend all the time you have to spend with her. You swim together, play records together, sing together. (Dena has always, from babyhood, sung in perfect pitch.) You take her to ride the ponies. When not too late, she always eats dinner with us. She goes around the golf links with you. The two of you often drive to Palm Springs together, just for the day (too rough on me!), golf, have lunch, golf and home again. You both love the sun, too, bask and bathe in it.

You’re as normal as it’s possible for any man—let alone an actor—to be. The only quirk you have is in preserving your good health. Considering the fact that you’re six feet tall, weigh 160 pounds, have chest and arm muscles like oak and legs of steel cable, this can be amusing. To you, however, it is earnest, it is real. You don’t drink very much—a cocktail before dinner and, when you’re working, not that. You have remarkable self-discipline anyway. If you decide a certain food is wrong for you, you’d have to be caving in with hunger before you’d touch it.

You have really marvellous hands. And X-ray eyes. You can see through things. You always wanted to be a doctor and to this day will drop anything you’re doing to watch a difficult job of surgery. You’ve watched so many, I’ve no doubt you could do one yourself.

You have a profound respect for skill and talent in any field. One of your closest friends is Leo Durocher. Remember you and Leo toured Army camps in the South. Leo told baseball stories, you performed. Then the two of you finished up by doing an old-time vaudeville act in straw hats and blazers. You listen now, eyes popping, to Leo telling baseball stories. When his Giants won the series last fall (you went East, of course, to watch the games with Leo) not even Dusty Rhodes and Willie Mays acted happier than you!

There is something of the hero-worshipper in you and hero-worshippers always suffer in their own esteem, I’ve found, by comparison with their heroes.

For this, and for the other reasons I’ve given, it was difficult for you, literally The Kid from Brooklyn, to believe in your own Star. Now at last, thanks to the love of the fans who are your friends, you do humbly believe. . . .

“With success, some people swell,” it’s been said, “others grow.”

You grow. And never so noticeably as in this past year. So many exciting and important things happened to you: In “White Christmas,” you achieve new stature as a singer, as a great dancer and, as you charm and gag your way through ten stunning reels, as an all-round showman. A new adventure in showmanship, too, for you to co-star with that other great singing showman, Bing!

Prior to “White Christmas,” you became an independent producer for the first time with “Knock on Wood,” which you made, at Paramount, for your own company Dena Productions. A new adventure, too, in courage . . .

Last winter you conducted the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra which started as a gimmick but, because you are a true musician, with a nose—an ear for music, it ended as a “tour de force.” This was not something you learned but something you do naturally. You are the envy of conductors because you have a naturally strong beat. The bottom of the beat is strong. (Your reading of “The Nutcracker Suite” is the finest and funniest anyone’s heard!) You’re mad for music, anyway, and when Conductor Eugene Ormandy asked you to go on tour with his orchestra, that was temptation!

“To have one hundred musicians play music,” you said, starry-eyed, “the way you want to hear it!”

Also in Philadelphia last year you made an unprepared speech on juvenile delinquency which was later reprinted, in full, in one of Philadelphia’s leading papers.

Now that you have confidence in yourself, without the cap and bells, you are a very effective speaker.

Last summer you started on a tour around the world. You were gone for more than three months. It was miserable for me to have you gone so long, but your horizons, I consoled myself, were widening . . .

You started the tour in England where you attended the charity premiere of “Knock on Wood.” Then you traveled to South Africa where you played theatre dates in Capetown, Johannesburg, Durban and Rhodesia. After the South African engagements (which touched off the wildest demonstrations in the memory of police officials) you began your tour for the United Nations in India where you were met and welcomed by Prime Minister Nehru and Madame Pandit.

For this trip, which was made under the auspices of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, you were officially appointed Ambassador at Large for the United Nations with full diplomatic status. The purpose of the trip was to make color film showing the activities of UNICEF medical and nutritional centers in India, Bangkok, Thailand, Indonesia, parts of China and Japan. Since it’s inception, UNICEF has been instrumental in curbing such horrible tropical diseases as Yaws, which killed one million children each year in the Middle East. UNICEF also provides milk and warm lunches for children in many of the more unfortunate countries. Your picture will tell all about this. You care about this. About children. About the ill and the Especially about poor and underprivileged children.

One of the signs of growth is when we reach out for new experiences. You are reaching out, and up . . .

The final stop on your tour was Honolulu where Dena and I met you and we flew home, the three of us together.

As of now, you’ve started work in our new Paramount picture, “The Court Jester,” (which is the eleventh picture you’ve made in the eleven years we’ve lived in Hollywood) and it is a role that should fit you like the clothes you wear so well. For there is in you something of the perennial Court Jester who will never quite believe that, without his cap and bells, he has a place at Court.

In you, too, is something of the strolling troubadour so that you will always feel a transient, a “temporary resident,” as you put it (even now) in Hollywood or anywhere. But we hear no more about “the bubble bursting,” nor any ominous reference to our immediate world and your particular star “passing away.” And I sincerely doubt that we ever shall again.





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