Sammy Davis Jr. was often billed as the "greatest living entertainer in the world". The son of vaudeville star Sammy Davis Sr., he was known as someone who could do it all--sing, dance, play instruments, act, do stand-up--and he was known for his self-deprecating humor; he once heard someone complaining about discrimination, and he said, "You got it easy. I'm a short, ugly, one-eyed, black Jew. What do you think it's like for me?" A short stint in the army opened his eyes to the evils of racism--a slight man, he was often beaten up by bigger white soldiers and given the dirtiest and most dangerous assignments by white officers simply because he was black--and he helped break down racial barriers in show business in the 1950s and 1960s, especially in Las Vegas, where he often performed; when he started there in the early 1950s, he was not allowed to stay in the hotels he played in, as they refused to take blacks as customers. He also stirred up a large amount of controversy in the 1960s by openly dating, and ultimately marrying, blonde, blue-eyed, Swedish-born actress May Britt.
He starred in the Broadway musical "Golden Boy" in the 1960s. Initially a success, internal tensions, production problems and bad reviews--many of them directed at Davis for playing a role originally written for a white man--resulted in its closing fairly quickly. His film and nightclub career were in full swing, however, and he became even more famous as one of the "Rat Pack", a group of free-wheeling entertainers that included Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.
A chain smoker, Davis died from throat cancer at the age of 64. When he died, he was in debt. To pay for Davis' funeral, most of his memorabilia was sold off.
|Altovise Davis||(11 May 1970 - 16 May 1990) (his death) 1 child|
|May Britt||(13 November 1960 - 19 December 1968) (divorced) 3 children|
|Loray White||(10 January 1958 - 23 April 1959) (divorced)|
His glass eye (the left eye)
TV composer Morton Stevens ("Hawaii Five-O" (1968), "Police Woman" (1974)) was Davis' musical director between 1950 and 1960 before moving into television music composing. He then returned as music director for Sammy, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Liza Minnelli in the late 1980s.
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, Garden of Honor, next to his father Sammy Davis Sr..
Starred in the 1964 Broadway Musical "Golden Boy" for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical) in 1965; he lost to Zero Mostel for "Fiddler on the Roof." "Golden Boy" also featured many then unknown or relatively unknown talents such as Roy Glenn who later portrayed the father of John Prentice/Sidney Poitier in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967); other talents included then very young performers Lola Falana, Louis Gossett Jr., who later won an Oscar for his performance in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982); and Johnny Brown who is best remembered for his portrayal of "Nathan 'Buffalo Butt' Bookman" on the popular television sitcom "Good Times" (1974). A then unknown performer named Ben Vereen was Davis' understudy in "Golden Boy."
Always articulate, he never attended school of any kind; performing since the age of five, he was largely self-taught.
He lost his left eye in a car crash when he was on his way to record the theme song for the Tony Curtis film, Six Bridges to Cross (1955). He wore an eyepatch for sometime after that, but Humphrey Bogart ultimately convinced him to unmask when he told him that he didn't want to be known as the kid with the eyepatch.
Smoked 4 packs of cigarettes a day during his lifetime.
During his childhood as a vaudeville entertainer, he often appeared in states and cities with strict child labor laws. To get around these laws, he was billed as "Silent Sammy, the Dancing Midget", and conspiciously walked around backstage with a rubber cigar in his mouth and a woman on each arm.
His mother, Elvera Davis, was born Elvera Sanchez, of Puerto Rican ancestry.
Died the same day as Jim Henson.
Was given a gift, of a black sapphire ring, by Elvis Presley , who told him, "This is the biggest black star I've seen, so I'm giving it to the biggest black star I know."
He was a regular at many of Elvis Presley's concerts in Las Vegas.He appeared in the audience and backstage in the Elvis documentary "That's The Way It Is"(1970).
Filmed a cameo appearance for the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The scene was ultimately cut, but can be seen in the DVD of the movie.
Father of Mark Davis.
Described himself as "a one-eyed Jewish Negro."
Was an acquaintance of Ron Perlman.
According to the "Fastest Gun Who Ever Lived," Bob Munden, Davis was the second-fastest draw in Hollywood, trailing only Jerry Lewis. Davis presented Munden with a customized Colt Peacemaker in recognition of Munden's skill after they appeared together on "The Mike Douglas Show" (1961).
Father of Tracey Davis, who co-wrote the book: "Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father" with Delores Barclay.
Despite being 64 at the time of his death, he was survived by his mother Elvera Sanchez (1905-2000) and his grandmother, Elvera's mother Luisa (who died in 1996 at 112).
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 235-237. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Had a relationship with Kim Novak in the 1950s.
When he married Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, unions between whites and non-whites were still banned in 30 US-states.
Converted to Judaism in the 1950s.
Shortly before his death surgeons removed his voice box in a larengectomy, but the cancer had spread.
Campaigned for Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2005.
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6254 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
After John Wayne left the stage, during the 1979 Academy Awards ceremony, he was greeted by his old pal Sammy Davis Jr., who gave him a big bear hug. Davis later told a friend he regretted hugging Wayne so hard in his fragile condition. But Davis was told: "Duke wouldn't have missed that hug for anything." The idea of a 125 pound Sammy Davis Jr. worrying about hugging him "too hard" was a sad commentary on John Wayne's failing health.
With second wife May had daughter Tracey and adopted two sons. He and third wife Altovise adopted a son, Manny.
His daughter, Tracey Hillevi Davis, was born July 5, 1961. She was named after Spencer Tracy, an actor whom Davis Jr. admired.
His son, Mark Sidney Davis, was born in 1963. He and his wife Britt adopted him on June 4, 1963, when he was three years old.
His third child was named Jeff, named after actor Jeff Chandler, and born in 1963. Davis Jr. adopted him with wife Britt.
He had a son named Manny with his widow, Altovise. Manny was adopted in 1989 by the couple when he was ten years old.
Daughter Tracey was enraged when she found out Davis Jr. adopted his youngest son Manny because: she found out about it on national television instead of from her father; her father didn't spend enough time with the three children he already had; and her father's wife was an alcoholic.
A "contract" was allegedly put out on Sammy's life because of his interracial affair with Kim Novak, and he was threatened that 'you will lose your other eye' if it continued. Before the "contract" was executed, allegedly Frank Sinatra intervened and saved the day. Nevertheless, Davis married a black showgirl, Loray White, out of fear for his life. The marriage lasted a few months before Davis got it annulled. Loray allegedly received a $10,000 settlement and a Cadillac.
In 1956, he starred on Broadway in 400 performances of "Mr. Wonderful".
He can be seen in the audience and backstage in the Elvis Presley concert documentary "That's The Way It Is" (1970).
His 8 Billboard Top 20 Pop hits, now standards, are "The Candy Man" (#1 1972), "Somethings Gotta Give"(#9 1955),"I've Gotta Be Me " (#11 1968), "Love Me Or Leave Me" (#12 1955 )," That Old Black Magic"(#13 1955 ),Hey There" (#16 1954),"What Kind Of Fool Am I" (#17 1962) and "The Shelter Of Your Arms" (#17 1963).
Shortly after his death in 1990, the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip turned off their exterior lights for 10 minutes in tribute. There is now an outdoor theater in Vegas named in his honor, the Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza.
Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to get insulted.
[when asked what his golf handicap was] My handicap? Man, I am a one-eyed black Jew! THAT'S my handicap!
I'm colored, Jewish and Puerto Rican. When I move into a neighborhood, I wipe it out!
You have to be able to look back at your own life and say, "Yeah, that was fun." The only person I ever hurt was myself and even that I did to the minimum. If you can do that and you're still functioning, you're the luckiest person in the world.
I'm 64 years old, but I feel I've lived the life of a person at 164.
[on Richard Burton] There is nothing he can't do. He is a wonder and a joy to watch.
[on Laurence Olivier] If you had to worship something mortal on Earth, I would go and bow twice a day to wherever Olivier was standing.
[on the death of Martin Luther King] I asked President [Gregory] Peck to postpone the Academy Awards to show that someone cares. I certainly think any black man should not appear. I find it morally incongruous to sing 'Talk to the Animals' while the man who could make a better world for my children is lying in state. The Academy Awards show was delayed two days, until April 10, 1968 in respect for Dr. King.
[on the lifestyle of The Rat Pack in 1958] We gamble. There's nothing else to do in Vegas. Man, it's like Baghdad. You can't sleep. All the chicks are after loot. So you sing, and what else do you do? Sometimes Dean and Frank sit in for the dealers. It must cost the house $1,000 every time. They see a little old schoolteacher making a bet and they slip her the good cards and let her win big.
|Anna Lucasta (1958)||$50,000|
|Ocean's Eleven (1960)||$125,000|
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