Celebrate America’s favorite jester with the Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years collection


It’s Throwback Thursday and if you love to laugh loud and long and clear, do yourself a favor and check out the ‘Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years’ DVD set from the Warner Archive Collection. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite out of the four movies included.


This may come as no surprise to anyone that knows me, but I love to laugh. To quote the song from Mary Poppins, “I love to laugh loud and long and clear, and it’s getting worse every year.” I’ve been a longtime admirer of Danny Kaye because he makes me laugh, having grown up watching several of his classics such as White Christmas, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Court Jester, The Inspector General and Hans Christian Andersen. When I heard the Warner Archive Collection was releasing four of Danny’s earliest movies in a DVD set, I knew I had to make that set mine, and they graciously accommodated my request. I had never seen any of the four movies included in the Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years collection – Up in Arms (1944), Wonder Man (1945), The Kid from Brooklyn (1946) and A Song is Born (1948) – but I knew I wanted to check them out. They did not disappoint!

Danny Kaye has the power to make you fall in love with him no matter the role.

Whether he’s playing a hypochondriac enlisted in the armed forces (Up in Arms), a clumsy milkman-turned-boxer (The Kid from Brooklyn), a nerdy professor smitten with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks (A Song is Born) or a dual role as the ghost of a boisterous nightclub entertainer and his bookish twin (Wonder Man), Danny Kaye has the power to make you fall in love with him no matter the role. He possessed that certain star-like quality very few are blessed with, especially in this day and age. Perhaps you know the type – the man who may not always be the best-looking man in the room but is the one who will immediately grab your attention and make you feel things you’ve never felt before, as you simultaneously laugh at his pratfalls and ridiculous antics and sympathize with his childlike inner beauty.

Danny Kaye movies touch my heart in a way that countless others simply do not. It doesn’t matter what the story line is or how corny some of the musical numbers may be, there is an almost indefinable natural beauty to them from start to finish. Uniquely, he has both a boyish charm and a commanding scene presence. He was one of Hollywood’s original triple threats: he could act, sing and dance and made all three look ludicrously easy. It’s no wonder he successfully transitioned from Broadway to Hollywood with such finesse during his Goldwyn years.

Danny is paired with the impeccably beautiful Virginia Mayo in three of the four films.

Danny is paired with the impeccably beautiful Virginia Mayo in three of the four films (all but Up in Arms), and this is a perfect marriage of chemistry and comfortable compatibility on screen. She is a radiant songbird in both The Kid from Brooklyn and A Song is Born, holding her own next to Danny and belting out showstopping tunes. In A Song is Born, I found myself getting upset with her for trying to con Danny’s character and break his poor little sweet heart. You just can’t do that to Danny Kaye! That’s like trying to pull a con on Mother Theresa. It’s inconceivable and ill-advised. In the end, she falls in love with him of course and the error of her ways is forgiven by both Danny and the viewers. Love conquers all; isn’t that how it should be?

I think that’s one of the things I like best about these movies. No matter how unlikely the scenario or how the odds may be stacked against him, Danny always plucks through and gets his happy ending. Along the way, he might learn a thing or two about himself. In Up in Arms, for example, he pines after his best friend’s girl while failing to see the incredible girl who is always right there in front of him loving him. His character, Danny Weems, goes from being a hypochondriac coward to becoming a hero of sorts, as he tests his mettle and learns more about what he is made of on the inside.

In Wonder Man, you get to see Danny play two characters with polar-opposite mannerisms. His introverted character (Edwin Dingle) learns how to be more like his deceased twin brother (Buzzy Bellew) and comes out all the richer for it, getting the girl and gaining closure for his brother’s murder. In The Kid from Brooklyn, Danny nearly lets fame go to his head when he becomes an overnight boxing sensation by accident. His character, Burleigh Sullivan, almost destroys his humble nature, but he is thankfully saved from himself with a little help from Mayo. However, I think you see the most transformation in Danny’s character Professor Hobart Frisbee in A Song is Born. Danny goes from being shy and awkward around women to a bonafide heartthrob willing to stand up for the woman he loves. There are many memorable scenes and gags in each of the four movies, and it’d be difficult for me to pinpoint a favorite.

However, one of my favorite quotes does come from A Song is Born, in which Mayo is explaining why she has fallen in love with Professor Hobart Frisbee: “I love those hick shirts he wears with the boiled collars and the way he always has his coat buttoned wrong. It looks like a giraffe, and I love him. I love him because he’s the sort of a guy that gets drunk on a glass of buttermilk. And I love the way he blushes right up over his ears. I love him because he … he doesn’t know how to kiss, the jerk.” That pretty much sums up my adoration for Danny Kaye’s characters too.

I also loved the 1940s fashions and hairstyles represented in this collection. In my opinion, Hollywood has never looked more glamorous. Dinah Shore, Dana Andrews and Constance Dowling round out the superb cast in Up in Arms, while Vera-Ellen fans will be delighted with her colorful dancing performances in Wonder Man and The Kid from Brooklyn. Music aficionados are treated to a tantalizing surprise with A Song is Born: special appearances by Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman were among its myriad musical highlights. One can also learn all the coolest jazz terminology and add “mobster-speak” to their vocabulary after watching this movie.

The Technicolor looks spectacular, and Danny’s star power has never shined brighter.

It’s obvious restoring classic films is a labor of love for the Warner Archive Collection. While there may not be any bonus features, the Technicolor looks spectacular, the audio quality is unparalleled, the stories are captivating and Danny’s star power has never shined brighter than in Danny Kaye: The Goldwyn Years. If you’re a fan of Danny or screwball musical comedies of the 1940s in general, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this for your DVD collection today. You won’t regret it. It’s a great set to cheer yourself up with on a gloomy day or to get comfy and fall asleep with on an otherwise restless night. I think it’s just about impossible to be in a bad mood when you’ve got America’s favorite ginger-haired jester in your corner.


Photo Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

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