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DVD Review: Christmas with Danny Kaye

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Just in time for the holidays, on November 20, Inception Media is releasing Christmas With Danny Kaye, featuring two classic holiday episodes from The Danny Kaye Show, the star’s variety series, which ran on CBS from 1963-7. The Danny Kaye Show won an Emmy for best variety series in 1964. The two episodes on the DVD feature Danny and his guest stars Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Mary Tyler Moore, and Wayne Newton singing a variety of holiday favorites.

With digitally restored footage, both episodes look clear and sharp on a large-scale high-definition television screen. The specials are in full screen, with an aspect ratio of 4 x 3 (1.33:1), and digital mono sound. The approximate running time of both specials is 90 minutes. An additional treat is a bonus clip in color featuring Kaye doing a reading from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which originally aired on the Dec. 22, 1965 episode of The Danny Kaye Show.

The first episode, in black and white, originally aired on Christmas in 1963, and features guest stars Mary Tyler-Moore, who channels her Thoroughly Modern Millie character in a lively period dance number, and Nat King Cole, who sings “Get Me to the Church on Time,” from My Fair Lady. Other highlights include Cole singing “The Christmas Song,” and dueting with Kaye on a jazzy version of “Jingle Bells.” Kaye also banters with a young girl group from Utah, the Clinger Sisters, and after an appropriate amount of teasing joins them in a comical rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Sharp-eyed viewers will also recognize Harvey Korman and Jamie Farr in a comic musical skit with Kaye and Moore.

The second episode, which originally aired on December 21 in 1966, features guest stars Peggy Lee and Wayne Newton. Lee performs “Here’s That Rainy Day” and “So What’s New?” and joins Kaye in another rendition of “Jingle Bells,” again with a jazz arrangement, as well as giving Kaye a chance to do some comical international vocal impressions. Kaye later introduces a very young Wayne Newton, who performs a few solo numbers, including “There’s A Place for Us” from West Side Story. Joyce Van Patten and Harvey Korman also join Kaye for a Christmas skit. Other guests include The International Children’s Choir, very appropriate guests, as Kaye was the first ambassador-at-large for UNICEF, and was the Goodwill Ambassador for the charity from 1954 until his death in 1987.

Christmas with Danny Kaye is being released in conjunction with many other centennial tributes to the actor, who was born on January 18, 1913, including:

December 5: Danny Kaye Tribute at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills

January 18: Danny Kaye Day in New York City, and Danny Kaye Movie Marathon on TCM

March 23: Danny Kaye Day and the launch of the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye website at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 

Christmas with Danny Kaye make for a nice, nostalgic holiday treat. The whole family can enjoy both programs, from the silly skits to the musical performances. These two holiday specials are a nice reminder of how versatile and entertaining a performer Kaye was.

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