Danny Kaye was truly a multi-talented entertainer. Comedy, impersonation, improvisation, acting, popular music, classical music, he did it all, finding success on the silver screen, television, radio, and the stage. The son of an immigrant Russian tailor, Kaye dropped out of high school to work for a local radio station. He later became a comedian touring the Borscht Belt in the Catskills. In 1933 he joined the dance team of Dave Harvey and Kathleen Young. During his first performance with the group he lost his balance and caused the audience to laugh. Pleased with this response he later decided to work comedy into his dance routine.
During the late 1930s Kaye worked mainly on his own. He quickly made a name for himself, and in 1937 he appeared in the first of several two-reel movies. In 1939 he made his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue. Later that same year he appeared in the production Lady in the Dark, scoring a big hit with the song ''Tchaikovsky,'' where he sang the names of 50 Russian composers in 39 seconds. He quickly became known for his ability to handle musical material with complicated verse.
In 1944 Kaye made his major film debut in Up in Arms and went on to star in several more popular films and musicals during the late 1940s and early 1950s, including The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, A Song Is Born, Hans Christian Andersen, The Inspector General, and The Court Jester, where he sang the unforgettable line ''the pellet with the poison's in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true.''
Though Kaye's popularity began to decline in the late 1950s he continued to appear in films until the early 1960s. In 1963 he made the move to television, starring in his own hour-long variety program on CBS. The Danny Kaye Show ran until 1967. During the late 1960s and through the 1980s Kaye worked sporadically in film and on television and Broadway. He was also very active in charity fundraising, including his long association with the United Nations Children's Fund. Danny Kaye died in 1987 after suffering a heart attack.