Sammy Davis Jr. biography
Born on December 8, 1925, in New York City, Sammy Davis Jr. overcame prevailing racism to become an entertaining legend. He was a successful comedian, actor, dancer and singer. As part of the Rat Pack, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, Davis was known for his films and his partying ways. As his fame grew, his refusal to appear in any clubs that practiced racial segregation led to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas.
Sammy Davis Jr. was born Samuel George Davis Jr. on December 8, 1925, in New York City. After his parents split up when he was 3, Davis lived with his father and soon began a career tap-dancing in vaudeville. He, his father and Will Mastin performed as the Will Mastin Trio until Davis left to serve in the United States Army during World War II. During his time in the service, he overcame racial prejudice by joining the entertainment unit.
Upon returning home, Davis resumed his showbiz career, performing stand up, acting and recording music. In 1956, Davis starred on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful, and in 1964 in Golden Boy. His refusal to appear in any clubs that practiced racial segregation led to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas.
Davis's films include Porgy and Bess (1959), Robin and the Seven Hoods with fellow Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin (1964), Sweet Charity (1968) and Taps (1980). While Davis found his greatest success as a performer in the 1950s and '60s, he continued to entertain and record until the early 1980s.
Personal Life and Death
Davis was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1954, and lost his left eye as a result. While in the hospital, recovering from the accident, the famous performer began studying Judaism, reading, among other works, Paul Johnson's book A History of Jews. Several years later, Davis—who was raised as a Roman Catholic—converted to Judaism.
Davis married Swedish actress May Britt in 1960, when interracial marriages were forbidden by law in 31 states. The couple had one daughter and adopted two sons before divorcing in 1968. Davis was married to dancer Altovise Gore from 1970 until his death, on May 16, 1990, in Beverly Hills, California.