Monday, November 2, 2015

DVD Spotlight: Danny Kaye - Legends (six episodes from The Danny Kaye Show)

With TV variety series near the peak of their popularity in 1963, CBS offered a new show to one of Hollywood's most versatile performers: Danny Kaye. The comedian-singer-dancer had already hosted several successful television specials, so he was an obvious choice. The Danny Kaye Show ran for four years and 120 episodes, earning an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series in 1966. MVD Entertainment Group recently released a two-disc DVD set called Danny Kaye - Legends, which contains the following six episodes of The Danny Kaye Show.

November 4, 1964 (S2 E7): Lucille Ball and John Gary,

December 9, 1964 (S2 E12): Tony Bennett, Imogene Coca, and the Clinger Sisters (there were four of them).

September 25, 1965 (S3, E3): Shirley Jones and the Righteous Brothers.

January 4, 1967 (S4, E16): Louis Armstrong and the Kessler Twins (singer-dancers Alice and Ellen).

January 11, 1967 (S4, E17): Liberace and Vikki Carr.

March 1, 1967 (S4, E24): George Burns and French singer Mirelle Mathieu.

The first two episodes are in B&W, but the other four show off the colorful costumes and sets. As indicated above, Kaye mixed well-known guest stars with promising young talent, such as Mirelle Mathieu. The French songstress was just 18 when she sang on the show--in her native language, no less. (Although she never gained fame in the U.S., she forged a long, successful career in France.)

George Burns and Danny Kaye.
Series regulars included Harvey Korman, Joyce Van Patten, orchestra leader Paul Weston, and youngster Victoria Meyerink (a semi-regular starting in 1965). Predictably, Korman shines in the numerous comedy skits, but he also proves to be a capable singer. Weston was already an acclaimed composer and arranger, who had worked with some of the biggest names in music (e.g., Johnny Mercer, Bing Crosby, Dinah Shore, etc.).

Satchmo on his trumpet.
The format of The Danny Kaye Show adhered to the standard variety series formula. Kaye usually opened with a musical number, sometimes being joined by a guest star. Comedy sketches followed, featuring Kaye and his guests or perhaps just the star by himself. There would be two or three songs performed by that week's musical headliner. Kaye typically closed the show by talking with the audience, sometimes inviting one of his fans to join him on stage. (Interestingly, though he was still a fluid dancer, Kaye didn't dance all that much.)

Lucy and Danny as the Scottish butler.
My favorite episodes among the ones included on Danny Kaye - Legends feature Lucille Ball and Shirley Jones. Lucy's episode ends with a brilliant sketch in which the two actors play six parts in a stage production called "Love Has Nine Lives." These marvelous comedians seem to be having as much as the audience as they enter and exit scenes portraying different characters (at various times in the play, each of them plays the same character).

Kaye and the lovely Ms. Jones.
Shirley Jones' episode is a delight from start to finish as she displays her first-rate singing and comedic talents. The Righteous Brothers are also on hand to sing their #1 hit "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." The show ends with an extravagant "man vs. woman" trial--performed totally in song--with Harvey Korman as the judge, the Righteous Brothers as the attorneys, and Danny and Shirley as their clients.

The DVDs are packaged nicely, but there are no extras. There is a series of separate menus that conveniently list all the song performances separately. Visual quality is fine for a 50-year-old television series.

Classic television fans, and especially Danny Kaye admirers, will enjoy this two-disk set. The only downside is that Danny Kaye - Legends will leave you wishing there was a larger set featuring other guests such as Gene Kelly, Mary Tyler Moore, Glynnis Johns, Nat King Cole, Dick Van Dyke, and Harry Belafonte.

Danny Kaye - Legends is available from the MVD Entertainment Group and retail outlets. Jonas PR provided a copy of this DVD set for this review.


  1. Sounds like Santa is going to have it easy this year!

  2. What fun! I especially loved seeing the photos of Danny with Lucy and him with Shirley. This sounds like a great set.

  3. Sounds like an interesting piece of entertainment history right here. Was surprised to see Harvey Korman's name, which goes to show I don't know much about his career.

    If I had seen this set in the store, I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance, but your review has intrigued me. I just might be dropping some hints around my house!