My dad took me into center city Philadelphia to the Mastbaum Theater one evening in the mid-1940s to watch “Wonder Man,” a comedy starring Danny Kaye. I was ten years old, and I think it was my first visit to one of the large movie houses. I got even more excited when, before they started the film, Danny Kaye walked out onstage and spoke to us. I don’t remember what he said, but I remember there was a lot of applause and laughter. From those moments I became a lifelong fan.
Two years later he appeared again in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” I loved the film, and eventually learned it was based on a story by James Thurber. Somehow I got a collection of his stories. Not sure whether I bought it myself –at the time I was concentrating on picking up Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter books—or whether it came as a Christmas present.
Thurber, I discovered, was one of the great comic writers of the era. He did both fiction and cartoons. And everything still holds up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Walter Mitty fighting Nazis from his imaginary P38 or FDR directing his Secret Service agents to kick Pat Smurch out of a skyscraper window before announcing his sorrow publicly at the terrible accident in “The Greatest Man in the World,” (https://www.loa.org/news-and-views/1094-the-greatest-man-in-the-world-james-thurber) ---
That one evening at the Mastbaum opened my eyes ultimately to Kaye and Thurber, two of the most entertaining people I’ve encountered in my life. You just never know.