Thursday, April 4, 2013

Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Centennial at the Library of Congress

The Great Hall
Library of Congress
Even though I was not a contemporary of Danny Kaye, I have been a fan for most of my life. I was first introduced to Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Anderson (1952) at age seven and will never forget his rendition of "Thumbelina." I even had a mini-crush on him as a kid because he was so funny and sweet to the children with whom he acted.

The Great Hall
January 2013 ushered in the centennial tribute of both Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine (wife, composer and often producer of Kaye's films and music) with many events scheduled around the US. Film screenings, discussions, DVD releases, tributes, and TV marathons, will culminate with the presentation of the 2013 Danny Kaye Humanitarian Award by UNICEF.

The evening's Mimosa-like cocktail
made with orange juice, orange liquor, and a splash of vodka.

On March 19, 2013, The Library of Congress celebrated the lives of these gifted and multi-talented stars of stage, radio, film, and television, by launching the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection website. This online exhibit links browsers to 2,000 key elements of the 150,000 piece collection housed at the Library of Congress. The website also correlates with the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine: Two Kids from Brooklyn exhibit which opened at the Library of Congress, Performing Arts Reading Room on February 14th and will be on display until July 27, 2013.

White Christmas bound script
from Danny Kaye's library 

Arguably, one the most stunning and work-laden aspects to this website is the Interactive Timeline, which allows visitors immediate access to various elements of the collection. Guests can track the lives of these two humanitarians through their musical scores, scripts with handwritten notes, letters, photographs, film clips, musical recordings, and other materials. I can't imagine a better resource for teachers, students, researchers, or musicians.

Danny Kaye in his specially designed Chinese Kitchen

Ever the consummate artist, Kaye also enjoyed entertaining at home. As an accomplished chef, Kaye had a kitchen designed specifically to allow him to cook his favorite Chinese dishes. In his later life, he gave cooking classes at various culinary schools. The prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY houses The Danny Kaye Theatre in the Conrad N. Hilton Library, where students can view cooking demonstrations and where several cooking shows have been recorded. In honor of his favorite cuisine, the evening at the Library of Congress began with Chinese appetizers and an open bar cocktail hour.

Rice Paper Lettuce Wraps
provided by Occasions Caterers

The Children's Chorus of Washington opened the event, followed by words from Senator, Christopher Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America; Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress; George Stevens, Jr., filmmaker, playwright, Founder of the American Film Institute, Producer of the Kennedy Center Honors and family friend; and Daniel Walshaw, Curator of The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. Michael Feinstein was the evening's featured performer and sang five popular favorites from the Kaye/Fine repertoire.

George Stevens, Jr.
Dena Kaye

Dena Kaye, daughter of Danny and Sylvia and President of The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Foundation, praised the work of The Library of Congress in their cataloguing and organizing of the multitude of memories that make up the Collection. She also shared a Japanese folk song her father had taught her. As the first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Danny Kaye treasured learning folk songs from the children he met around the world.

Up In Arms (1944) Film Clip

One of my favorite moments of the evening was watching Dena Kaye and Daniel Walshaw, a man who has spent three years living and breathing this Collection, mouthed the words to each song in the Kaye/Fine medley selected and performed by Michael Feinstein. The enchanted evening in memory of two treasured artists and humanitarians wrapped on a sweet note as guests lingered over impeccable dessert tables and hot beverage buffets.

Berry Tartlets, Mini Apple Pies served hot
with melted Sharp Cheese on top, and
S'mores Bars.

Chocolate Mousse
Creme Brulee

Hot Chocolate and Coffee Buffet