Holly Fine and Danny Kaye Papers, 1934-1994 (majority within 1935-1938)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- Fine, Holly, 1910-1998 and Kaye, Danny
- Holly Fine was a dancer and performer with the traveling vaudeville production, the Marcus Show, in the 1930s. The collection documents Fine’s relationship with entertainer Danny Kaye, as well as the Marcus Show itself. Includes correspondence, vaudeville programs and promotional material, photographs, scrapbooks, printed material and drawings. The correspondence includes approximately 0.5 linear feet of letters written from Kaye to Fine.
5 boxes (approx. 3.75 linear feet)
Photographs in Boxes 2 and 4.
Drawings in Box 5.
Newspaper clippings and magazines in Box 2. Scrapbooks in Box 5.
- Collection processed and finding aid created by Daniel Santamaria
- Scope and Content:
The Holly Fine and Danny Kaye Papers document the relationship between Fine and Kaye, as well as the 1930s traveling vaudeville production, The Marcus Show. The papers have been divided into six series: Correspondence, Vaudeville, Printed Material, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Drawings and Artwork.
- Biographical / Historical:
Holly Fine was born in Tampa, Florida and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Fine was “discovered” in 1933 in Atlanta, Georgia while she was eating lunch at Walgreens. Despite a lack of dance training Fine joined the Marcus Show, a traveling vaudeville show run by A.B. Marcus, and continued with the company for six years until 1939. The Marcus Show toured extensively on several continents during the years of the Great Depression. During Fine’s years with the show, she traveled to China, Japan, India, South Africa, Mexico, Australia and other countries. The Marcus Show, called La Vie Paree at the time, had a large traveling company of seventy-five people, and played two, two and one half hour performances per day. It was during her time on the Marcus show that Fine met and developed a romance with Danny Kaye. Fine returned to Jacksonville in 1939, eventually married neighbor and grocery store owner Al Hitzing, and settled in North Ft. Myers, Florida.Danny Kaye
Danny Kaye was a popular American entertainer with a wide creative range, encompassing dance, popular song, classical music, impersonation and improvisation. He achieved success in stage productions, in films, and on television and radio.
Kaye was born David Daniel Kaminski (sometimes spelled Kaminsky or Kominsky), the son of Jacob Kaminski, a tailor, and Clara Nemerovsky. His parents were Ukrainian -Jewish immigrants. Kaye had two older brothers. Raised in Brooklyn’s East New York section, he dropped out of Thomas Jefferson High School shortly before graduation. Kaye received his first professional break in 1929 when he was hired as a tummler, an entertainer hired to provide amusement for guests, at a resort in New York's Catskill Mountains called White Roe Lake. It was during this period that he took the stage name Danny Kaye. (He legally changed his name in 1943.)
Kaye spent his summers at White Roe Lake through 1933 where he earned $1000 per season. In 1933 he was asked by David Harvey and Kathleen Young, a girlfriend of Kaye’s, to join their dancing act, which they then named the Three Terpsichoreans. After performing in Utica, New York, the team traveled to Detroit, where they were approached by A.B. (Abe) Marcus, the promoter of the Marcus show. Marcus was impressed by Harvey and Young, but did not want Kaye as part of his show. It was only after Harvey and Young offered to divide their sixty-dollar per week salary three ways that Marcus relented.
After Kaye joined the tour, the show traveled westward for five months until it reached San Francisco. The show then left for Japan, and later moved on to China, Hong Kong and the Philippines. At the beginning of the tour Marcus refused to let Kaye on stage. When cast members became sick, however, the producer had no choice but to let Kaye perform, and eventually Kaye appeared in 16 of the show's 21 numbers. It is often reported that while on the Marcus tour Kaye developed well-known parts of his comic routine. Because he could not speak the native languages of his audiences Kaye began to use mime and exaggerated facial expressions to make the audience laugh. He also noticed that the foreign audiences reacted favorably to “double-talk” and speaking and signing in nonsense syllables. Despite his success Marcus did not renew Kaye’s contract when the tour ended in late 1934.
Kaye initially struggled after leaving the Marcus Show tour. He first returned to White Roe Lake, then moved to another nearby hotel before landing a small part at Billy Rose’s Casa Manana in New York City. In 1937 Kaye made three two-reel movies for Educational Pictures, all filmed in two days in Astoria, New York. The three shorts, Cupid Takes a Holiday, Money or Your Life, and Getting an Eyeful, were released by 20th Century Fox, but were unsuccessful. In 1938 Kaye worked as straight man to Nick Long Jr. in a London cabaret production, which was also unsuccessful.
By 1939, however, Kaye appeared in Sunday Night Varieties, a socially conscious cabaret revue, in New York, and met Sylvia Fine, who had been the revue's pianist, lyricist, and composer. The two were married a year later in 1940. Sylvia Fine Kaye became a powerful influence on Kaye's career, writing much of his material and guiding his artistic development. Kaye also performed in a series of revues at Pennsylvania's Camp Tamiment in 1939. His successes included Fine's "Anatole of Paris," "Stanislavsky," and "Pavlova," which joined his permanent repertory. These shows were amalgamated on Broadway as The Straw Hat Review (1939).
Kaye continued to perform in nightclubs in the early 1940s. His performances included a successful stint at La Martinique in New York City in 1940, a role in the musical Lady in the Dark (1941), in which he introduced "Tschaikovsky," one of the rapid-fire tongue twisters (written by his wife) that became one of his trademarks. Kaye continued his New York success with an engagement at the Palace Theatre (1941) and in Cole Porter's musical Let's Face It (1941). Reportedly, it was in one of these nightclubs that Sam Goldwyn of MGM saw Kaye's act and offered him a film contract. Kaye initially chose to continue working before live audiences, and turned down the contract. By the time Kaye eventually decided to accept Goldwyn's offer, he had already established himself as a popular young New York comedian. He arrived in Hollywood as an established star, even before making his first feature film.
Kaye made seventeen feature films in his career. These films included Up in Arms (1944), Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), A Song Is Born (1948), The Inspector General (1949), On the Riviera (1951), and Hans Christian Andersen (1952). In 1954 Kaye's own company, Dena Productions, which was named for his only daughter, produced Knock on Wood (1954). This film was followed by White Christmas (1954), The Court Jester (1955), Merry Andrew (1958), Me and the Colonel (1958), The Five Pennies (1959), On the Double (1961), The Man from the Diners' Club (1963), and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969). Many of Kaye’s later films were considered failures.
Kaye also worked in radio and television. He starred in his own radio program in 1945, the Danny Kaye Show. From 1963 to 1967, Kaye appeared in The Danny Kaye Show, a weekly television variety show, which won an Emmy in 1964. Kaye was also a noted amateur orchestra conductor. Although unable to read music, he delivered comic conducting performances that amused audiences and over many years raised an estimated $10 million for musicians' pension funds. Kaye was also a founder of, and a limited partner in, the Seattle Mariners professional baseball team, and was well-known as a long-time ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. Danny Kaye died of a heart attack resulting from hepatitis on March 3, 1987 in Los Angles, California.Sources:
- The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Volume 2: 1986-1990. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999.
- Contemporary Heroes and Heroines, Book IV. Detroit: Gale Research, 2000.
- Gottfried, Martin. Nobody’s Fool: The Lives of Danny Kaye. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
- Acquisition Information:
- The collection was purchased from Charles Apfelbaum in 2001.
- Processing information:
Collection processed and finding aid created by Daniel Santamaria.
The papers have been divided into six series: Correspondence, Vaudeville, Printed Material, Photographs, Scrapbooks, and Drawings and Artwork.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Comedians--United States--20th century.
Entertainers--United States--20th century.
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Fine, Holly, 1910-1998.
Hitzing, Albert C., 1917-1989.
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Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Holly Fine and Danny Kaye Papers, University of Michigan Library (Special Collections Research Center)