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.
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.
She was working as an audition pianist when she met Danny Kaye; both were working on a short-lived Broadway show. Fine also wrote the lyrics and music for it. Though the pair had never met, 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. After a whirlwind romance, they were married on 3 January 1940. 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.
She took a direct role in managing her husband's career and wrote many of his songs for him, both in film and recordings. Those for the film The Court Jester were co-written with Sammy Cahn. Fine was also an associate producer of some of the films. Fine received a Peabody Award in 1980, and during her career she was also nominated for two Oscars and two Emmys.
Fine and Kaye had a daughter, Dena, who was born on 17 December 1946, and they remained married, although estranged from circa 1947 on, 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. 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. In 1975 she was executive producer for a television special, "Danny Kaye: Look In at the Met." She also produced and edited "Assignment Children," a UNICEF film that starred her husband." She began working in television production with her husband's 1960s television shows.
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.
Sylvia Fine Kaye died of emphysema at the age of 78 in her Manhattan apartment in 1991. 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. 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."
Selected list of Sylvia Fine songs
- "Anatole of Paris" from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
- "The Inspector General" and "Happy Times" (Johnny Green, Sylvia Fine) from The Inspector General (1949)
- "The Moon Is Blue" (Herschel Burke Gilbert, Sylvia Fine) from The Moon Is Blue (1953) - Oscar nominee, Best Original Song
- "Knock on Wood" from Knock on Wood (1954)
- "(You'll Never) Outfox the Fox" (Sammy Cahn, Sylvia Fine) from The Court Jester (1956)
- "The Five Pennies" from The Five Pennies (1959) - Oscar nominee, Best Original Song
- "Lullaby in Ragtime," also from The Five Pennies, a sumptuous song that fulfills both its title words, and which Barbara Cook turned into a standard
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