Sammy Davis Jr. - Biography - IMDb
Sammy Davis Jr. Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Family (4)  | Trade Mark (3)  | Trivia (58)  | Personal Quotes (9)  | Salary (2)

Overview (5)

Born in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, California, USA  (complications from throat cancer)
Birth NameSamuel George Davis
Nickname Smoky
Height 5' 3½" (1.61 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Sammy Davis Jr. was often billed as the "greatest living entertainer in the world".

He was born in Harlem, Manhattan, the son of dancer Elvera Davis (née Sanchez) and vaudeville star Sammy Davis Sr.. His father was African-American and his mother was of Cuban and African-American ancestry. Davis Jr. 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?" (he had converted to Judaism).

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. 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: rocknrollunderdawg

Family (4)

Spouse 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)
Children Tracey Davis
Mark Davis
Jeff Davis
Manny Davis
Parents Elvera Davis
Sammy Davis Sr.
Relatives Suzette Davis (sibling)
Sam Garner (grandchild)
Montana Garner (grandchild)

Trade Mark (3)

His glass eye (the left eye)
Frequently worked with fellow Rat Pack members Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford
Short stature

Trivia (58)

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.
Member of the "Rat Pack" with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. All appear in Ocean's Eleven (1960).
Following his death, he was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, in the 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 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 four packs of cigarettes a day during his lifetime.
Longtime friend Bill Cosby wore a small button with the letters "SD" on episodes of The Cosby Show (1984) after his death on May 16, 1990 as a tribute.
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.
Had a daughter, Tracey Davis, with his second wife, May. He and May also had two adopted sons: Mark Sidney (born 1960, adopted on June 4, 1963), and Jeff (born 1963). Jeff was named after an actor, Jeff Chandler. He also adopted a son, Manny Davis (born 1978, adopted 1989), with his third wife, Altovise.
Died the same day as Jim Henson.
Once took Donald Rumsfeld to visit Elvis Presley after one of his concerts in Las Vegas.
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 documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970).
Filmed a cameo appearance for the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever (1971). The scene was ultimately deleted, but can be seen in the DVD version of the movie.
He and the other members of the Rat Pack were banned from Marilyn Monroe's funeral by Joe DiMaggio
Described himself as "a one-eyed Jewish Negro".
Was friends with Ron Perlman. They met at the Golden Globe Awards in the late 1980s, apparently Davis was a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast (1987) and had seen every single episode.
Was the childhood idol of director Tim Burton, who wanted to cast him as the title character in Beetlejuice (1988), but Warner Bros. ultimately refused.
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).
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 1995 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 and converted to Judaism in the 1950s.
When he married Swedish actress May Britt, unions between whites and non-whites were still banned in 30 American states (1960).
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.
Posthumously inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame (2005).
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6254 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California on February 8, 1960.
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.
Daughter Tracey was enraged when she found out that Davis Jr. adopted his third son, Manny, because she found out about it on national television instead of from her father. Sammy also didn't spend enough time with the three children he already had.
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".
His eight 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 on May 16, 1990, the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip turned off their exterior lights for 10 minutes in tribute. There is currently an outdoor theater in Las Vegas named in his honor, the Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza.
Was originally cast in Never So Few (1959) until a feud broke out between him and Frank Sinatra after Sammy had claimed in a radio interview that he was a greater singer than Frank. Frank demanded he be dropped from the cast, and was replaced with Steve McQueen.
According to Frank Sinatra Jr. in the DVD commentary for Ocean's Eleven (1960), Sammy Davis Jr., like all black performers, was not allowed to stay in the major Las Vegas casinos despite the fact that he was filming "Ocean's 11" there and performing on stage at the Sands Casino with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford in the legendary "Summit" Rat Pack shows. In those days, there was such strict segregation in Vegas that many people derisively joked that Las Vegas was an outpost of the Deep South. Sammy, like all other black performers, was forced to stay in "coloreds only" hotels in the western part of town. This finally changed when Frank Sinatra used his considerable clout with the hotel managers and owners to get this ban lifted, finally creating equality in Las Vegas.
According to the two-part A&E Biography documentary on The Rat Pack, there was a falling out between Sammy Davis Jr. and his support of John F. Kennedy. Two reasons prominently cited are: 1. When Sammy attended the Democratic National Convention and stood on stage with other Hollywood celebrities singing the "Star Spangled Banner", he was heckled and abused by the Democratic delegates from the South and therefore chose not to attend further rallies or conventions. 2. After Sammy married May Britt, which in those days was controversial since many states had laws against inter-racial marriage, Joseph Kennedy no longer invited Sammy to political functions and advised his sons John and Robert to stay away from Sammy in order to avoid controversy. (By a similar token, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin found their own relationships to the Kennedys severed due to their alleged ties to the Mafia). Eventually, Davis would switch his political allegiance from Democrat to Republican and would later support Richard Nixon in his presidential elections.
Grandfather of Sam Garner and Montana Garner.
Mentor and friends with Gregory Hines.
Announced he had overcome alcoholism and an addiction to cocaine (1989).
Davis' career began to wane after 1970, but his iconic stature never diminished, and he continued to appear on television specials and in Las Vegas shows.
Admitted to compulsive carousing, reckless gambling and spending $50 million over 20 years while earning $3 million a year.
His parents were both black. Sammy's father was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, to African-American parents, Robert Davis and Elizabeth Taylor. His mother, a native New Yorker, was the daughter of Marco Sanchez, a Cuban immigrant, and Luisa Valentina Aguiar, who herself was born in New York, to a Cuban father and an African-American mother. During his lifetime, Sammy sometimes said that his mother was Puerto Rican, perhaps due to anti-Cuban sentiment.
Was a huge fan of Australian TV Drama Prisoner (1979) and even flew to the set and met with the cast and crew at the Melbourne studios.
Sammy Davis Jr.'s height is listed as 5'5". However, when he is standing next to Cheryl Ladd in Charlie's Angels, he is considerably shorter than her. She is listed as 5'4".
He was heavily criticized for going to Vietnam in February 1972 at the request of President Nixon.
He outlived his father by less than two years.
He was only 4 when he joined his family in their vaudeville act.
In 1956 he was a success in his first Broadway show "Mr. Wonderful," which led to his career in Hollywood.
After his G.I. war service, during which he produced camp shows, he rejoined the family's show which became a nightclub attraction that ran for many years.
A major supporter of the state of Israel.
He was heavily criticized for performing in South Africa during the apartheid era.
He was the 2nd member of the rat pack to pass away after peter lawford in 1986.
On August 11, 2020, he was honored with a day of his filmography during the Turner Classic Movies Summer Under the Stars.
Sammy was a keen photographer and once assisted Bunny Yeager during a shoot with Maria Stinger.
Harry Belafonte was his best man at his wedding to Loray White.

Personal Quotes (9)

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.

Salary (2)

Anna Lucasta (1958) $50,000
Ocean's Eleven (1960) $125,000

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