Saturday, 4 April 2015

D is for Davis

Celebrities have many difficulties, especially since their every move is scrutinized, but few had life-long criticism like Sammy Davis Jr.  Born in New York of Afro-Cuban descent, he learned to dance and act at an early age, as his father took him on tours with his dance troupe.  However when he grew up and joined the army he was subject to racism in all its ugliness.  Fortunately his talent of performing lessened the prejudice.

After his discharge he began to achieve success on the stage, and soon became a member of the famous Rat Pack alongside Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop.  His career took off and he starred in several movies as well as continuing performances in Las Vegas.  Due to the strict requirements that were imposed on black performers at the time, Sammy Davis Jr. refused to perform at establishments that practiced racial segregation.  A car accident in 1954 caused the loss of his left eye. While in hospital a close friend told him of the similarities between Judaism and black culture, which inspired him to convert to Judaism a few years later.

Although his career recovered, many of his personal relationships were controversial.  A revealed relationship with a white actress prompted him to hurriedly marry a black woman instead, only to have the marriage dissolved a short time later.  His second marriage to white actress May Britt, caused him to receive hate mail.  He attempted to escape the problem by continually performing, but that took a toll on the marriage and it eventually ended.  His marriage in 1970 to dancer Altovese Gore lasted until his death.

Through the 1970s and 1980s he not only was well known on stage - he had become a good friend of Elvis Presley - he also had many cameo roles in films and television.  His liking of soap operas led to a recurring role on One Life to Live which earned him a Daytime Emmy nomination.  He became an enthusiast of photography and fast-draw competitive shooting.

Sammy Davis Jr. died in 1990 of complications from throat cancer.  During his life he won many awards and honours, including an Emmy for Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy; induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This clip was taken from the Playboy After Dark Show in December 1968.
I Gotta Be Me

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