Wooing a Star : Danny Kaye and Israel
The American comedian Danny Kaye was an international star on stage and screen for more than three decades, beginning in World War II. During his career, Kaye visited the state of Israel more often than any other Hollywood celebrity. This article tracks Kaye’s trajectory from a reluctant Jew to a champion of Zionism. It looks at the Israeli government’s early efforts to incorporate popular figures like Kaye into its public diplomacy infrastructure designed to boost the country’s international image. It emphasizes the role that Kaye’s highly choreographed visits to Israel played in winning him over to Zionism and in making him such a valuable pro-Israel advocate. The article argues that Danny Kaye was a trailblazer for today’s generation of celebrity activists and points to the importance of the Hollywood-Israel relationship to the wider alliance between Israel and the United States.