Sammy Davis Jr. (1925 - 1990)

Sammy Davis
1925 - 1990
updated March 12, 2019
Sammy Davis Jr. was born on December 8, 1925 in New York, New York. He died on May 16, 1990 at 64 years old.

Sammy Davis Jr.
Born December 8, 1925 in Harlem, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Died May 16, 1990 in Beverly Hills, California, USA (throat cancer)
Birth Name Samuel George Davis Jr.
Nickname Smoky
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)
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).
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.
His film and nightclub career were in full swing, 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)
Member of the "Rat Pack" with Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. All appear in Ocean's 11 (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".
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 conspicuously 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.
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.
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 1996 at 112).
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).
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. In 1956, he starred on Broadway in 400 performances of "Mr. Wonderful". 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 11 (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.
Was friends with Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Bill Cosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Della Reese, Lola Falana, Cicely Tyson, Johnny Brown, Timmie Rogers, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Mickey Rooney, Liza Minnelli, Danny Thomas, Shirley MacLaine, Carroll O'Connor, Shirley Jones, Harold Nicholas, and his brother Fayard Nicholas, Andy Griffith, Gavin MacLeod, Gene Rayburn, Regis Philbin, Richard Dawson, Dick Clark, Leslie Uggams, Dick Van Dyke, John Forsythe, Carol Burnett, Larry Manetti and Dick Van Patten.
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.
Personal Quotes
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!
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.
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Sammy Davis Biography

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Sammy Davis Jr.
Most commonly known name
Male
Gender
Sammy
First name
Unknown
Middle name
Davis
Last name(s)
Jr.
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Samuel George Davis Jr.
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Last known residence
Sammy Davis was born on in New York, New York County, New York United States
Birth
Sammy Davis died on
Death
Sammy Davis was born on in New York, New York County, New York United States
Sammy Davis died on
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Death
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Professions

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).

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During service in World War II, the Army assigned Davis to an integrated entertainment Special Services "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," he said. After his discharge, Davis rejoined the family dance act, which played at clubs around Portland, Oregon. He also recorded blues songs for Capitol Records in 1949, under the pseudonyms Shorty Muggins and Charlie Green.

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Sammy Davis Jr. passed away on May 16, 1990 at age 64. He was born on December 8, 1925 in New York, New York. We have no information about Sammy's family.
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1925 - 1990 World Events

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In 1925, in the year that Sammy Davis Jr. was born, on November 28th, radio station WSM broadcast the Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Originally airing as “The WSM Barn Dance”, the Opry (a local term for "opera") was dedicated to honoring country music and in its history has featured the biggest stars and acts in country music.

In 1938, when he was only 13 years old, on October 30th, a Sunday, The Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcast Orson Welles' special Halloween show The War of the World's. A clever take on H.G. Wells' novel, the show began with simulated "breaking news" of an invasion by Martians. Because of the realistic nature of the "news," there was a public outcry the next day, calling for regulation by the FCC. Although the current story is that many were fooled and panicked, in reality very few people were fooled. But the show made Orson Welles' career.

In 1959, when he was 34 years old, on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

In 1968, he was 43 years old when on June 5th, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles by Sirhan after celebrating his win in the California presidential primary. He died the next day at Good Samaritan Hospital.

In 1990, in the year of Sammy Davis Jr.'s passing, on April 24th, the Hubble telescope was launched into space after long delays due to the Challenger explosion. An optical flaw was found within weeks of launch but was fixed within three years. The discoveries made possible by the Hubble have contributed to scientists' understanding of the universe.

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Mar 12, 1944 - Unknown
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Dec 9, 1941 - Unknown
Dec 7, 1957 - Unknown
Mar 22, 1946 - Unknown
Oct 20, 1950 - Unknown
Oct 11, 1954 - Unknown
1856 - Unknown
1858 - Unknown

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