Was Danny Kaye Gay? The Reality About His S*xuality

We are pleased with releasing three Danny Kaye films on Blu-ray, making us rethink an old rumor. Was he gay?

Kaye barely has an impression of the culture at large right now. However, he was previously a hugely well-known humorous film and musical star who appeared in well over a dozen movies with his name above the title. They’re all available on DVD, which speaks to his prior notoriety. And now there are these Blu-ray discs, one of which is expensive and top-notch.

Was Danny Kaye Gay?

Was he gay? No, he was not a gay man. Having three Danny Kaye films finally available on Blu-ray is a treat, and it has prompted us to reconsider a long-standing rumor. Before Kaye’s 1951 version, On the Riviera was a French theatrical hit and the subject of two musical films. Kaye portrays a music-hall star caught up pretending to be a French investor. It’s a fun time as Kaye flirts with the other guy’s wife and his girlfriend—a French setup.

Danny Kaye Musical career

The five songs are sizzling, but the movie’s unique gift is that four are flashy production sequences choreographed by tres homos*xual Jack Cole, with a young and attractive-looking Gwen Verdon front and center next to Kaye but without any credit. The disc’s supplementary content is rich (including biographies of Kaye and Cole), and the Blu-ray mastering enlivens the vibrant Technicolor of the 1950s.

Was Danny Kaye Gay
Was Danny Kaye, Gay

The added features on the other two Blu-ray releases are essential, but the remastering is adequate. On the Double (1961), a zany WWII comedy starring Kaye in a second dual role as a scared private ordered to imitate a famous British Colonel who is the target of a Nazi murder plot, had me in stitches the entire time. Several tunes are included incidentally, and Margaret Rutherford makes a hilarious cameo.

Despite the guaranteed hilarious routine of Kaye getting caught in the middle of a Russian dance troupe’s performance in the film’s finale, Knock on Wood (1953) didn’t make me laugh out loud. A convoluted multinational spy adventure starring Danny makes every effort to be exciting but ultimately comes off as forced.

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Kaye Starred as a flamboyant Queen

The 1941 Broadway smash show Lady in the Dark, in which Kaye starred as a flamboyant queen, served as the catalyst for the beginning of the gay rumors. I primarily rely on Michael Bronski’s comments in the following discussion because Bronski spent a lot of time on Danny Kaye studying the ties between gay and Jewish cultures in the 1950s.

People who want to know if Kaye is gay choose from a lengthy list. He had blond hair that was a little effeminate, a fluttery hand, and a funny grin. He was “quite far from John Wayne on the masculine continuum,” according to one writer.

He sang some tremendously outrageous tunes, such as “The Fairy Pipers,” in which Kaye extravagantly queened up a not-so-subtle undertone, and “Anatole of Paris,” about a mad-queen hat designer who “shrieks with flair.” He typically concealed himself under drag, disguises, and dual personas when enacting heteros*xual love scenes.

Then along came Donald Spoto’s biography, which asserted a relationship between Kaye and Sir Lawrence Olivier as truth. According to Spoto, when Dame Joan Plowright got tired of being held responsible for the dissolution of Olivier’s marriage to Vivien Leigh, she revealed the secret to her husband. “‘No, no,’ she averred. ‘Not guilty. Danny Kaye was on the scene long before I came along.'”

Although Dame Joan’s quip was witty, it lacked support. Martin Gottfried, a second Kaye biographer, discovers no evidence to support any rumors and offers unequivocal confirmation of Kaye’s relationships with Eve Arden and Shirley MacLaine. And to me, the parts he performed are irrelevant. Robin Williams and Peter Sellers have performed drag, been fey, and worn disguises, yet neither actor has ever claimed to be gay. These are only the comedians’ bread and butter.

Michael Bronski differs from me, writing, “I think that this doubling allows Kaye to be ‘Kaye,’ and presenting alternate versions of his character, takes away some of the obvious queerness of his actions. It’s a clever narrative device to make him more acceptable. I think it is also possible now to look at the films and see in Kaye’s characters a split between gay and straight, or closeted and uncloseted.”

Bronski asks rhetorically, “Is Danny Kaye part of gay history? Of course, he is, whether he slept with men or not. (And I think there is more than enough evidence to suggest that he did.) Kaye looks and sounds like a gay man. At a critical and conservative time in U.S. history and culture, he gave us this flamboyant style and performances that made it all right, to some degree, to be not-traditionally masculine.”

But the sociological effect is not a confirmation, and Bronski’s “evidence” is not cited. Sure, you can read gay coding in Kaye’s tea leaves; one can find most anywhere the facts one wants to see. I can’t be so sure that Kaye was gay. But I’m glad that in the old-fashioned terms of joy and frivolity, Kaye’s talent ensured his audiences felt gay.

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Final Lines

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