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Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy Davis Jr.

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Also Known As: Died: May 16, 1990
Born: December 8, 1925 Cause of Death: throat cancer
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: actor, singer, vaudevillian, recording artist, dancer, impressionist, boxing manager

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Widely regarded as one of the greatest showmen of the 20th century, entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. boasted an astounding career that, quite literally, spanned a lifetime. Performing with his vaudevillian father from the age of three, Davis honed his craft as a singer, dancer, musician, impressionist and comedian as one-third of the Will Mastin Trio, prior to breaking out as a popular solo act in the early 1950s. He overcame the obstacles of racism and personal tragedies, such as the loss of his left eye, to become one of the most successful mainstream performers of his day. No stranger to controversy, Davis endured the wrath of racial bigots for marrying Swedish actress May Britt and the skepticism of fellow African-Americans over his mid-life conversion to Judaism. As a founding member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack," he sold out shows in Las Vegas and appeared in hit films like "Ocean's Eleven" (1960). For decades, Davis was also a constant radio presence, with such hit singles as "I've Gotta Be Me" and "The Candy Man." He conquered Broadway in the acclaimed production "Golden Boy," and even in his later years, still attract sold out crowds during a 1988 world tour with his old partners in...

Widely regarded as one of the greatest showmen of the 20th century, entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. boasted an astounding career that, quite literally, spanned a lifetime. Performing with his vaudevillian father from the age of three, Davis honed his craft as a singer, dancer, musician, impressionist and comedian as one-third of the Will Mastin Trio, prior to breaking out as a popular solo act in the early 1950s. He overcame the obstacles of racism and personal tragedies, such as the loss of his left eye, to become one of the most successful mainstream performers of his day. No stranger to controversy, Davis endured the wrath of racial bigots for marrying Swedish actress May Britt and the skepticism of fellow African-Americans over his mid-life conversion to Judaism. As a founding member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack," he sold out shows in Las Vegas and appeared in hit films like "Ocean's Eleven" (1960). For decades, Davis was also a constant radio presence, with such hit singles as "I've Gotta Be Me" and "The Candy Man." He conquered Broadway in the acclaimed production "Golden Boy," and even in his later years, still attract sold out crowds during a 1988 world tour with his old partners in crime, Sinatra and Dean Martin. Although taken by cancer at the relatively young age of 64, Sammy Davis, Jr. remained a timeless source of joy, fascination and inspiration for generations of fans to come.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Tap (1989) Little Mo
2.
 Moon Over Parador (1988) Himself
3.
4.
 That'S Dancing! (1985) Narration
5.
 Cannonball Run II (1984) Fenderbaum
6.
 Heidi's Song (1982) Voice Of Head Ratte
7.
 Cannonball Run, The (1981) Fenderbaum
8.
 Sammy Stops the World (1978) Littlechap
10.
 Poor Devil (1973) Sammy
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1927:
First became a professional entertainer at age 2 in parents' act
:
Joined "adopted" uncle Will Mastin's all-black family act of seven men and seven women before he was four (was sometimes passed off as a 44-year-old midget billed as 'Silent Sam the Dancing Midget' to bypass child labor laws); act was later reduced in size during the Depression and consisted of Davis, his father and "uncle" and was retitled The Will Mastin Trio
1933:
First film appearance in Vitaphone short, "Rufus Jones For President" opposite Ethel Waters
1938:
Performed in vaudeville with the Will Mastin Trio
:
Served with US Army Special Services in one of the first integrated barracks; had his nose broken twice in fights with white soldiers; produced camp shows, some of which he wrote and directed
:
Rejoined the retitled Will Mastin Trio starring Sammy Davis, Jr; act opened for Frank Sinatra in 1945
1946:
Recorded "The Way You Look Tonight"; named METRONOME magazine's "Most Outstanding New Personality"
1950:
Launched solo career at Ciro's nightclub in Hollywood when he opened for Janis Paige on Oscar night
1954:
Lost left eye as result of a car accident while driving from a Las Vegas club date to Hollywood; converted to Judaism during convalescence
1955:
Feature film acting debut in "The Benny Goodman Story"
1956:
Broadway acting debut in "Mr. Wonderful"
1960:
First appeared with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra at the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
1960:
Made London cabaret debut
1961:
London stage debut in "An Evening with Sammy Davis Jr"
:
Was boxing manager for fighter Sonny Liston briefly in the 1960s
1964:
Starred on Broadway in musical, "Golden Boy"
1965:
Published autobiography, "Yes I Can"
1966:
Starred in own TV series, "The Sammy Davis, Jr Show"
:
Hosted syndicated TV series, "Sammy and Company"
1978:
Appeared in Broadway revival of "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off"
1983:
Stopped drinking after being hospitalized for liver and kidney dysfunction
1983:
Appeared with Bill Cobsy in "Two Friends Sammy and Cos" at Gershwin Theatre in NYC
:
Merchandized his own brand of food items (barbecue sauce, chili and mustard) in the 1980s
1985:
Underwent hip surgery
1988:
Received an articial hip
1988:
Toured with former Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli (who replaced Dean Martin who dropped out due to ill health) in reunion concert
1989:
Played a veteran hoofer in last film, "Tap"
:
Fought eight month battle against throat cancer
1990:
Owed $5.2 million to the IRS at time of death because beginning in 1972, the IRS started disallowing Davis' tax shelters
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

"There are only two things that count in show business; know when to get on and when to get off. Try to walk out with a little dignity." --Sammy Davis, Jr. (quoted in People)

"I didn't like what I had created, and what I had become, and I had to face that. It was more like the Billy Crystal imitation. A certain amount of theatricality is wonderful. That's what they pay you for. And I definitely have never been the boy next door. But I went too far. You can go too far over the edge." --Sammy Davis Jr. discussing his decision to stop drinking in 1983 (quoted in The New York Times, May 30, 1989).

He was inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame.

He served as co-chairman to the NAACP membership drive in the Los Angeles Chapter.

He was vice president of the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada.

Davis was appointed member of the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity in 1971.

The Variety Club of St. Louis renamed the children's wing of its hospital the Sammy Davis, Jr. Wing.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Kim Novak. Actor.
wife:
Loray White. Dancer. Married in 1958; divorced in 1959.
wife:
May Britt. Actor. Married on November 13, 1961; divorced in 1968; mother of three of his children.
wife:
Altovise Gore. Former show girl. Married from May 11, 1970 until Davis' death; born c. 1949; was a dancer in Davis' nightclub act; adopted son Manny with Davis in 1989.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

grandmother:
Rosa Davis. Raised Sammy Davis Jr until age three while parents toured.
grandmother:
Louisa Sanchez. Maternal grandmother; died in October 1996 at the age of 112.
father:
Sammy Davis Sr. Vaudevillian, dancer. Born c. 1901 in Wilmington North Carolina; died May 21, 1988 in Beverly Hills, California of natural causes; joined Will Mastin Trio after WWI.
mother:
Elvera Davis. Chorus girl, tap dancer. Puerto Rican; lead chorus dancer with Will Mastin's Holiday in Dixieland troupe; left family when Sammy Davis Jr was three; died on September 2, 2000 at age 95.
sister:
Ramona James. Born c. 1927.
sister:
Suzette Davis.
son:
Mark Davis. Video store owner. Born c. 1960; adopted by Davis and May Britt; co-owner of Lake Tahoe video store with brother and May Britt.
daughter:
Tracey Garner. TV commericials producer. Born in 1961; mother, May Britt; working on film of father's 1965 autobiography, "Yes, I Can"; married to Guy Garner; has one son Sammy, born c. 1989.
son:
Jeff Davis. Video store owner. Born in 1963; adopted by Davis and May Britt; co-owner of Lake Tahoe video store with brother and May Britt.
son:
Manny Davis. Born c. 1978; adopted by Davis and Altovise Davis in 1989.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Yes I Can"
"Why Me?"
"Sammy Davis Jr., My Father"
"Rat Pack Confidential: Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter, Joey and the Last Great Showbiz Party" Doubleday
"The Sammy Davis Jr. Reader" Farrar, Straus & Giroux
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

Contributions

JStafford ( 2006-03-27 )

Source: Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

The Beverly Hills mansion at 1151 Summitt Drive was the final residence of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. The 10,900-square-foot mansion included a separate building which functioned as his gourmet kitchen.
(Source) Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

JStafford ( 2006-03-29 )

Source: Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

The Beverly Hills mansion at 1151 Summitt Drive was the final residence of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. The 10,900-square-foot mansion included a separate building which functioned as his gourmet kitchen. (Source) Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

JStafford ( 2006-03-29 )

Source: Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

The Beverly Hills mansion at 1151 Summitt Drive was the final residence of entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. The 10,900-square-foot mansion included a separate building which functioned as his gourmet kitchen. (Source) Movie Star Homes: The Famous to the Forgotten (Santa Monica Press) by Judy Artunian and Mike Oldham

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