Thursday, November 27, 2014

Danny Kaye and Nat King Cole wish you Merry Christmas

Mary Tyler Moore Danny Kaye Nat King Cole

Well, you may be wondering where the above picture of Nat King Cole and Danny Kaye came from. It is an actual picture, not shopped or anything like that. More on that in a moment. First, let's show Nat King Cole singing The Christmas Song.

All right, and the answer to the above question is: The Danny Kaye Show. Yes, Danny had a long-forgotten show in the early 1960s. The episode (actually, it technically was a special) that aired on December 25, 1963 featured Nat King Cole, and that is where the performance is from. The people of the day probably didn't realize how lucky they were to get this kind of first-class entertainment on Christmas.

And it's a brilliant performance, with Nat appearing as comfortable singing the song as if he were in his own living room, entertaining his family. A true professional. The later duet with Danny of a hip version of 'Jingle Bells' also is phenomenal and probably the highlight of the show.

In case you're really interested, below is the entire broadcast, which prominently features Mary Tyler Moore, who was riding high on the 'Dick Van Dyke' show at the time. It was a terrific show, classy old show biz stuff, of a kind that went completely out of style about fifteen minutes after it finished its broadcast with the Beatles coming along on the Ed Sullivan Show barely a month later.

Let's get one thing out of the way, because I'm a mind reader and I know what you're thinking. These were the days when everybody simply celebrated the season and did not make a big fuss about their own religion and how it might not exactly quite fit into the whole Christmas thing and so on and so forth. Just going along with the holiday was their choice, it stemmed from an old showbiz tradition that went back at least as far as Irving Berlin, and everybody got along and respected each other with a knowing wink and entertained people. If that offends people these days - too bad. It was Danny's show, that is how he wanted it, and that is how it went down. And it was a great show.

Interestingly, a question that Danny raises at the beginning - 'Can the United States maintain its world leadership' - sounds awfully familiar these days. Some things never change. Oh, and you get the bonus of Harvey Korman and Jamie Farr of 'MASH' prancing about.

As a bonus, and for no particular reason beyond the title of the movie it is from, below is a classic clip of Danny and a good friend singing 'Sisters' from 'White Christmas.'

The bottom line? Danny Kaye was a ferociously dedicated worker, he was in constant motion during his tv show - all right, some of it obviously was taped - and turned mediocre sketches into personal tour de forces. And all that when he was one of the top movie stars in the world. Phenomenal talent all around.

And he wishes you a Merry Christmas.


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