Growing up, I loved to watch old movies, in particular movie musicals. Of those, I remember “Hans Christian Andersen” starring Danny Kaye. It would turn up from time to time on television, so naturally I felt compelled to watch it. I haven’t seen the movie in years, but the Library’s online presentation, The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection, which is new today, has certainly prompted me to revisit my childhood and even dig a little deeper into the life of the noted actor and comedian.
More than 2,000 items cover the lives and careers of Kaye and his wife, Sylvia Fine, who played a major role in her husband’s success, writing the music and lyrics for his songs and artfully managing and producing his engagements.
“The items found on this website are informative, entertaining and enlightening,” said Daniel Walshaw, curator of the collection. “There are the stories people know, stories people do not know and there are the stories behind those stories. It shows not only the beautifully polished final products, such as films, recordings and shows, but it also shows the sweat, blood, tears and thousands of pots of black coffee that went into creating Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine.”
A standout feature in the presentation is an interactive timeline that can be used to quickly browse the events in their lives with corresponding collection items like music scores, awards and audio-visual materials highlighting those particular periods.
In 1990, Sylvia Fine made an initial donation to the Library of Congress to form the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. In recent years, more items have been received from their daughter Dena Kaye and the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Foundation to supplement the collection.
This weekend, the Library is hosting a series of film screenings in celebration of Kaye and his wife Sylvia. In fact, Dena was here last night to kick things off and will be back for a question-and-answer session during the screenings.
In a short film shown about Kaye and Fine, comedian Carl Reiner talked about his memories of the “unmatchable and wonderful” Danny Kaye. “When he came onstage, it was like a jewel coming on stage – with his bright, red hair and sparkling smile.”
You can read more about Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine in this previous blog post from the Library of Congress blog.