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Sammy Davis Jr. Biopic to be Produced by Lena Waithe

Marion Charatan

Posted on October 16, 2020 19:01

1 user

A film about the extraordinary Sammy Davis Jr. is being developed by MGM and produced by Lena Waithe--based on the book Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father written by his daughter Tracey.

Sammy Davis Jr. was larger than life, in spite of his small stature. The talented entertainer, one of the original Rat Pack, did it all: he sang, acted, danced, played instruments, did stand-up in the company of the legendary Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Crawford. And he accomplished this when black artists experienced blatant segregation with racism.

Often called the "greatest living entertainer in the world," Davis was born in Harlem, NY on December 8, 1925 to an African-American father, Sammy Davis Sr., a vaudeville performer, and a mother of Cuban and African-American descent, Elvera Davis, a dancer. 

Early on, Davis felt the sting of racism. When he was drafted into the Army at age 18, he was harassed by some white soldiers from the South. He got into physical fights: his nose was broken and permanently flattened. But when he started performing with the Army's Special Services branch, changes occurred: he gained respect. Davis observed," "My talent was the weapon, the power, the way for me to fight. It was the one way I might hope to affect a man's thinking."


After military service, Davis performed with his father in the Will Mastin Trio. He became an "overnight success" after a well-received show at Ciro's nightclub in West Hollywood in 1951. 

A TV pilot was written in 1953 that cast Davis along with Frances Davis, the first black ballerina to perform for the Paris Opera and Frederick O'Neal, founder of the American Negro Theater. But ABC could not find a sponsor due to racism, so the pilot was dropped.

Tragedy struck a year later. When he was just 29, the singer lost his left eye in a serious car accident. A few years later, Davis converted to Judaism. He said he felt a kinship to Jews because of the shared suffering and oppression of both the Jewish and African-American communities.

Sammy Davis Jr. faced many more obstacles. Even though he became a headliner in Las Vegas, he was forbidden to stay at hotels where he performed because black people were not allowed to be guests; such an indignity.

When he married the lovely Swedish actress May Britt in in 1960, they received death threats and were forced to hire 24-hour security. This was during a time when interracial marriage was illegal in 31 states and just five years after the appalling murder of 15-year-old Emmett Till.

In spite of this, Davis was a powerful force in entertainment. Who can forget his signature I've Gotta be Me and Candy Man songs, Broadway run in the Golden Boy and starring role in Ocean's 11 with Sinatra?

Tracey Davis said of her late father, who died of throat cancer at 64, “He and my mother, May Britt, took on the world, choosing love and compassion over hatred and bigotry."

Lena Waithe will produce the biopic: she wrote about racial inequity in Queen and Slim

I hope Jamie Foxx will play Davis!

Marion Charatan

Posted on October 16, 2020 19:01

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