Starring Sammy Davis Jr. As Mr. Show Business: Inspiring Stories And Facts

By | December 6, 2019

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LOS ANGELES - 1953: Actress Marilyn Monroe leans on a Singer Automobile as she watches entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. on the set of the movie "How To Marry A Millionaire." (Photo by Frank Worth, Courtesy of Capital Art/Getty Images)

Few stars earned better or more deserved nicknames than Sammy Davis Jr., or "Mr. Show Business" as he was called.  A singer, dancer, and actor, Davis was an old-school entertainer, bon vivant and civil-rights influencer like none other -- taking calls from Frank Sinatra and Martin Luther King, Jr. while plotting his next stage show or TV extravaganza. Perhaps no other celebrity faced as much adversity or lived as diverse a life as Mr. Show Business.

Born in Harlem to African American and Cuban parents, he got his first taste of show business when he was just three years old and never received formal schooling. The further the world gets from the life of Sammy Davis Jr., the more incredible his life appears in hindsight. Here’s to the life of the only self-proclaimed “Black, Puerto Rican, one-eyed, Jewish entertainer in the world." 

The School Of Hard Knocks

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Life threw a lot of difficulties Sammy's way (

Sammy Davis Jr.’s parents split when he was very young. His father, afraid to lose him in a custody battle, took him on the road with him. Both his parents were vaudeville dancers and his education into the world entertainment began before he could fully speak. He learned to dance from his father and "uncle," Will Mastin.

Davis took to show business quickly and almost immediately became part of the act, which turned into the Will Mastin Trio. Those early years for Sammy were formative, educational, and sheltered. His older compatriots protected him from the virulent racism that was widespread at that time. But once he was drafted into the Army, his father and fellow performer could not shield him any longer.