Celebrate Lucy’s Birthday… With Danny Kaye!

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! In this week’s post, I’m observing the yearly tradition of celebrating the anniversary of Lucille Ball’s birth (August 6th) by sharing, with subscribers who comment below to let me know of their interest, one of the Queen’s heretofore unreleased television endeavors: The Danny Kaye Show With Lucille Ball. Although the two comedians would work together a few years later on each of their respective series, most diehard fans will tell you that their finest collaboration occurred during this rare television special, which was produced by I Love Lucy creator Jess Oppenheimer, broadcast by NBC on November 11, 1962, and commended by the Television Academy with three Emmy noms.

It’s a brisk hour with some really fine musical moments — including an opening (“Glory Hallelujah Twist”) for Danny, the ensemble, and a dancing Lucy; a parody of variety shows (where Lucy imitates Judy Garland, Carol Channing, and Marlene Dietrich, while Danny does a progressively drunker Dean Martin); and a rousing finale for Danny and the dancers to “Cotton Fields.” The main attraction for us Lucy fans, though, is an extended sketch sequence (by Ernest Chambers and Herbert Baker) in which the two leads have trouble at a Japanese teahouse (’cause of those darn chopsticks!), a French restaurant (where they get drunk on the salad dressing), and a Tahitian place (where the atmosphere is quite jungle-y). The drunk bit is the most amusing — it goes on for a while, but the leads sell it. And good news: for subscribers who comment below, I have the full 21-minute restaurant skit in color. (This is currently available to view online, but now’s your chance, you critics and scholars, to have a copy of it.)

I also have a copy of the FULL special — the bulk of which has never been made available. (Unlike the above excerpt, it’s in poor black-and-white quality. Sorry; until this starry delight sees a proper studio release, we beggars can’t be choosers.) And trust me, folks, this is a rip-roarin’ show that deserves to see the light of day… So, for critics and scholars of vintage entertainment — who have no commercial designs on this material — comment below (and subscribe, if you haven’t already) to see this spectacular treat. In the meantime, here’s a clip…



Come back next week for another Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Friends!

30 thoughts on “Celebrate Lucy’s Birthday… With Danny Kaye!

  1. I am interested in obtaining a copy of the skit in color and the full special. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  2. What a great opening number! And while it may be mostly Danny’s number, Lucy’s timing is impeccable, and I love that you chose a clip for her birthday where she gets to show off those Goldwyn Girl gams! I’d love to get a copy of whatever you’re sharing. Thanks!

  3. The whole world needs more Lucy, and me in particular. Please send me a copy of this rare special, and thanks so much for offering it.

  4. I attended one of the Lucy conventions in the late 90s. Gregg Oppenheimer, Jess’ son, was there and some clips from this show were shown to great response. I said to him later that this show should be released on video. He agreed but seemed pessimistic that it would happen. Both Lucy and Danny at their best!

    • Hi, Dean! Thanks for reading and commenting — and subscribing!

      I agree that Kaye is much more performative and high-energy than the uber-natural comics popular right now, making him aesthetically oppositional to most of the genre’s current trends. But I’m always hesitant to use such contemporary metrics (“today’s light”) to adjudicate a performer from the past, primarily for the purposes of appreciating him/her less.

      With regard to Kaye, I think he’s an overpowering entertainer who dominates his material. But that was ALWYAS the case and it stands even in comparison to his actual contemporaries. Therefore, I think you could make a similar argument while also keeping it within (a fairer framework — ) an era-specific context.

      If you’re interested in seeing the special, let me know — it’s a terrific showcase for Lucy, and it’s a must-see for all diehard fans!

  5. Hi. I would like a copy of the The Danny Kaye Show With Lucille Ball please. Everything i have seen of the Danny Kaye show has been quite brilliant.

  6. Happy Birthday Lucy! I can’t wait to see this show again, I was 10 when it first aired, and I remember the restaurant sketch very well. Thanks again, Jackson!

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