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The Library of Congress Celebrates Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine

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Danny Kaye points upward as he and Sylvia Fine disembark from airplane at night (in London for the Command Performance). Kaye/Fine Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress

The following is a guest post by Daniel Walshaw, Music Division. 

Danny Kaye’s contributions to American culture and entertainment are unmatched. He mastered nearly every aspect of show business – stage, film, television, radio, recordings, and even orchestral conducting. Despite his demanding performance schedule, he was also one of the most generous celebrity humanitarians donating much of his time and talents to such causes as the USO and UNICEF. He had a formidable partner in his wife, Sylvia Fine, who not only wrote material for Kaye, but also produced many of his engagements. Fine was also a scholar of musicals and musical comedies and taught courses on the subjects at The University of Southern California and Yale University.

This week, the Library of Congress celebrates Danny Kaye in three unique ways: on Saturday, March 23, the Music Division will hold a day of film screenings of Danny Kaye’s most popular films. In the Coolidge Auditorium The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Hans Christian Andersen will be shown with an introduction by Dena Kaye, the daughter of Danny and Sylvia, starting at 11:00 am. In the Pickford Theater, three 35mm preservation prints will be shown starting at 9:00 am.

In addition to the film festival, the Library of Congress has launched an exhibition and a website  featuring items from the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. This archive, which consists of over 150,000 items, is perfect for scholars of mid-twentieth-century show business as it contains nearly all of the production and performance materials that went into creating these entertainment giants. The collection is brought to life in the special website featuring over 2,000 digitized items presented in a curated display.

In the foyer of the Performing Arts Reading Room in the James Madison building, the exhibition Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn is on view to the public from February 14 through July 27, 2013. This exhibition features 51 unique items from the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection and includes video and audio stations playing highlights from Kaye’s career.

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