For the character from the TV series The Nanny, see Sylvia Fine (The Nanny).

Sylvia Fine (29 August 1913 – 28 October 1991) was an American lyricist, composer, and producer, and the wife of the comedian Danny Kaye. She and her future husband grew up within blocks of each other in Brooklyn, but did not meet until 1939.[2][3][4]


Sylvia Fine was born in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest of three children of a Jewish dentist, and raised in East New York. She attended Thomas Jefferson High School and studied music at Brooklyn College, where she wrote the music for the school's alma mater, with lyrics from the poet Robert Friend.[5][6][7]

She was working as an audition pianist when she met Danny Kaye; both were working on a short-lived Broadway show.[7][8][9] Fine also wrote the lyrics and music for it.[10] Though the pair had never met before, they discovered something in common. Kaye had once worked for Fine's father, watching his office while the dentist went to lunch. Dr. Fine also had to fire his future son-in-law for doing woodworking with his dental drills.[11] After a whirlwind romance, they were married on 3 January 1940.[5][12] Kaye proposed on the telephone while working in Florida; Fine was in New York. She made the trip to Fort Lauderdale where they were married.[13]

Promotional flyer for The Straw Hat Revue, 1939. Fine met her future husband, Danny Kaye, while working in it.

She took a direct role in managing her husband's career and wrote many of his songs for him, both in film and recordings.[8][14][15] Those for the film The Court Jester were co-written with Sammy Cahn. Fine was also an associate producer of some of the films.[16] Fine received a Peabody Award in 1980, and during her career she was also nominated for two Oscars and two Emmys.[5]

Fine and Kaye had a daughter, Dena, who was born on 17 December 1946,[5] and they remained married, although estranged from circa 1947 on,[7][17][18] until his death in 1987.

According to her obituary in the New York Times, "In the 1970s, she embarked on a separate career as a television producer and teacher. She began teaching musical comedy at the University of Southern California in 1971 and at Yale in 1975.[19] In 1979, she produced and narrated the course as a 90-minute PBS program, "Musical Comedy Tonight," (eventually a three part series), which won a Peabody Award.[20][21] In 1975 she was executive producer for a television special, "Danny Kaye: Look In at the Met."[2][22] She also produced and edited "Assignment Children," a UNICEF film that starred her husband."[23] She began working in television production with her husband's 1960s television shows.[7]

In the last three years of her life, she had been writing an autobiography, Fine and Danny, about her life with Kaye for Knopf Books.[23]

Sylvia Fine Kaye died of emphysema at the age of 78 in her Manhattan apartment in 1991.[5] She is buried with her husband at Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York. In 1992, her daughter, Dena Kaye, was quoted in a newspaper article, recalling Fine's advice to her and the influence it had in her life.[24] Both Fine and Kaye were determined not to influence their daughter's choices as she grew up. In a 1954 interview, Kaye stated that, "Whatever she (Dena) wants to be she will be without interference from her mother nor from me."[25][26]

The careers of Fine and Kaye are immortalized in The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection at the Library of Congress. The materials preserved in the collection include manuscripts, scores, scripts, photographs, sound recordings, and video clips.[27]

Selected list of Sylvia Fine songs


  1. ^ "Sylvia Fine". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "A team grew in Brooklyn". The Dispatch. 25 April 1975. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Boyle, Hal (27 August 1959). "Composer Sylvia Fine Can Write Anywhere Anytime". The Sunday News-Press. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  4. ^ Hyman, Paula E.; Moore, Deborah Dash, eds. (1997). Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Vol. 1: A-L. Routledge. p. 880. ISBN 0-415-91934-7. Retrieved 11 March 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Movie producer, songwriter Sylvia Fine Kaye dies at 78". Daily News. 29 October 1991. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Jaynes, Gregory (14 May 1988). "About New York; Noteworthy Improvement On School Song". New York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Who Is Sylvia?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 30 October 1960. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  8. ^ a b Battelle, Phyllis (8 May 1959). "Mrs. Danny Kaye Proves a Genius". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  9. ^ "Kaye at the Met". The Evening News. 25 April 1975. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Adir, Karen, ed. (2001). The Great Clowns of American Television. McFarland & Company. p. 270. ISBN 0-7864-1303-4. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Git Gat Gittle". Time. 11 March 1946. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 
  12. ^ Wilson, Earl (4 July 1959). "Danny Kaye To End TV Holdout; Wife To Write Script". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  13. ^ Raymer, Dorothy (6 November 1945). "Who Is Sylvia? What Is She?-Danny Kaye's Inspiration". The Miami News. Retrieved 14 January 1945.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. ^ a b Hyams, Joe (16 February 1960). "Film Lyricist Sylvia Fine Top Hand With a Rhyme". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  15. ^ Wilson, Earl (4 July 1959). "It Happened Last Night". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Brady, Thomas F. (13 November 1947). "Danny Kaye Film Set at Warner's". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  17. ^ Cheney, Carlton (26 October 1947). "The Secret Life of Danny Kaye". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  18. ^ Handsaker, Gene (11 December 1947). "Like Peas In Pod Are Film Married Duos". The Deseret News. Retrieved 18 January 2011. 
  19. ^ Morehouse, Rebecca (23 July 1979). "Her Life Is O-Kaye". The Deseret News. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  20. ^ "Sylvia Fine Kaye's 'Musical Comedy Tonight'". The Evening Independent. 11 February 1981. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  21. ^ "Mudd, Trout Win Peabody Awards". The Milwaukee Journal. 20 April 1980. Retrieved 27 November 2010. 
  22. ^ Sharbutt, Jay (24 April 1975). "Danny Kaye's 'Look In' A Delightful Program". Lewsiton Evening Journal. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  23. ^ a b Grimes, William (29 October 1991). "Sylvia Fine Kaye, 78, Songwriter; A Proponent of Musical Theater". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  24. ^ Nemy, Enid (15 March 1992). "Mother's Words Are Never Forgotten". Gadsden Times. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  25. ^ Perry, Lawrence (9 May 1954). "Danny Kaye Looks At Life". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  26. ^ Boyd, Joseph G. (23 May 1980). "Travel writer attends party saluting hotel". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  27. ^ "The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection: About the Collection". American Memory. The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 13, 2016.