1 Days Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

Creator / Sammy Davis, Jr.


Sammy Davis, Jr. (December 8, 1925 — May 16, 1990) can lay claim to being one of the most successful "triple-threat" performers in modern history. As a stage performer, member of the Rat Pack, celebrity impersonator, photographer and actor, Davis entertained audiences for over 40 years, and is still fondly remembered by legions of fans.

Born to vaudeville dancers Sammy Davis, Sr. and Elvera 'Baby' Sanchez in Harlem, Davis Jr. learned to be a performer from a very early age, and performed with his father and uncle in the Will Mastin Trio. Davis also faced racism from a very early age, especially when he enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was eventually assigned to a Special Services unit that performed shows for the troops, and found that he faced less prejudice on stage.

After being discharged, Davis released a series of acclaimed albums, which included hits like "Love Me or Leave Me", "Something's Gotta Give", "What Kind of Fool Am I", and "I've Gotta Be Me" among others. This culminated in him being brought on board by Frank Sinatra to be a part of the Rat Pack in 1959. The group would go on to be one of the defining groups of the '60s, via their stage performances and collaborative appearances in films like Ocean's 11 and Robin and the Seven Hoods. This would also effectively end segregation in Las Vegas, as Sinatra refused to perform anywhere Sammy wasn't welcome or blacks couldn't come to watch the show. During this period, Davis was performing with the Pack, starring in Broadway productions, recording, shooting his own daytime talk show and appearing in several variety specials. This multidisciplinary career lasted through the '70s and early '80s, punctuated by a upsurge in interest when his version of "The Candy Man" (the opening theme to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) became a smash hit and revitalized his work.

Aside from his film and musical work, Davis appeared as a notable guest on several television shows and TV movies, including cameos on All in the Family, Batman, Charlie's Angels, The Cosby Show and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, among others. Davis passed away at the age of 64 on May 16, 1990, from throat cancer.

Selected filmography:

Tropes embodied by Davis and his work include:

  • As Himself:
  • The Caper: A main plot point in many of the films he appeared in.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Notably shilled for Alka-Seltzer, Suntory Whiskey, a Chicago car dealership and President Richard Nixon's 1972 election campaign, although the last example backfired when he ended up being publicly chewed out for it by his fans.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • At the end of Oceans 11, Davis and the rest of the Rat Pack (who are playing a group of thieves) walk past a marquee advertising the Rat Pack's show.
    • In the aforementioned Charlie's Angels episode, Davis plays a liquor-store owner who wins a Sammy Davis, Jr. lookalike contest, and is given an award by... Davis, which is filmed in split-screen.
  • Celebrity Star
  • Eye Scream: His infamous 1954 car crash in which his left eye was destroyed is certainly one instance that can't be ignored.
  • Glass Eye: After losing his left eye in an automobile accident, he used an ocular prosthesis for the rest of his life.
  • Guest Host: On an episode of the Richard Dawson version of Family Feud.
  • Gun Twirling: One of Davis' signature tricks - he could spin two guns while singing.
  • The Mafia: Supposedly had run-ins with them due to his association with the Rat Pack, including an incident where he was threatened by Vegas mobster Johnny Roselli to dissolve his relationship with Kim Novak because of the taboo against miscegenation.
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: The 1956 musical Mr. Wonderful, where part of Davis' nightclub act is replicated wholesale.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: He used to describe himself as "the world's greatest one-eyed, black, Jewish entertainer".
  • Self-Deprecation: A favourite trope of his, sometimes toppling over into Compliment Fishing.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Davis was rarely seen without a cigarette, and smoked four packs a day for many years. He eventually died of throat cancer, but not before refusing to have part of his throat removed (explaining that he's rather keep his voice that take out part of his throat).
  • True Companions: With the rest of the Rat Pack.
  • Twofer Token Minority: In his words:
    I'm black. I'm Jewish. I'm Puerto Rican. When I move into a neighborhood, I wipe it out.
  • Where Da White Women At?: (In)famously dated Kim Novak and Swedish actress May Britt, at a time when unions between whites and non-whites were outlawed in half the country.

References in other works: