Sammy Davis, Jr.

Actor, Singer, Comedian & Dancer

“Real success is not on the stage, but off the stage as a human being, and how you get along with your fellow man.”

Sammy Davis Jr. was an actor, comedian, singer and dancer, and part of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, with whom he starred in several films.

Early Life

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.

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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.

Commercial Success

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.

Sammy Davis, Jr.

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 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.

Quick Facts

Birth Date:
December 8, 1925

Death Date:
May 16, 1990

  • At the age of 3, Davis began his career in vaudeville with his father and Will Mastin as the Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally.
  • Davis became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro's after the 1951 Academy Awards.
  • In 1954, he lost his left eye in a car accident, and several years later, he converted to Judaism.
  • After a starring role on Broadway in 1956's Mr Wonderful, he returned to the stage in 1964's Golden Boy.
  • Davis was a victim of racism throughout his life, particularly during the pre-Civil Rights era, and was a large financial supporter of the Civil Rights movement.
  • He died in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, and his estate was the subject of legal battles.
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • Sammy Davis, Jr.


BIO: +
PHOTO: TimeToast + MisAdventuresOfMommy + ListChallenges + GroovyHistory + Eventbrite

Last Updated

December 2018

Original Published Date

October 2014

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