Gonna Do Great Things: The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.

Front Cover
Simon and Schuster, Jun 15, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 448 pages
0 Reviews
A major reappraisal of the life of legendary entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., Gonna Do Great Things is at once an intimate portrait and an exuberant celebration of a wholly American icon. Through his multifaceted talent and personality, Sammy became one of the most magnetic and contentious figures in modern entertainment history. His outstanding talents as a dancer, singer, actor, impressionist, and comedian, combined with his close association with megastars and his interracial marriage, made him a celebrity in the truest sense.

Born in Harlem in 1925, Sammy debuted onstage with Will Mastin's vaudeville troupe when he was only three years old. He was an instant hit, and his talent propelled him into one of the most luminous entertainment careers of his generation. No one could please a crowd like Sammy, whose overwhelming energy and infectious humor exhilarated audiences for sixty years. However, Sammy's life was not without hardship, and his high-spirited attitude often masked a fragile ego. From an impoverished, broken home, he lacked even a single day of formal education, and the rigors of his blossoming show business career denied him the traditional pleasures of childhood. Racism constantly affected his life, particularly when he joined the army in 1943. Because he refused to acknowledge any race-related restrictions, his very existence became a political statement. An active member of the Civil Rights movement and America's first African-American superstar, Sammy paved the way for other black entertainers.

As a charter member of the Rat Pack, Sammy spent the 1950s and 1960s basking in an image of "cool" and endearing himself to the public. But by the 1970s he was relying on cocaine and alcohol, flirting with Satanism, indulging in scandalous sexual behavior, and becoming the punchline of jokes on Saturday Night Live. Though his fans still adored him, his performances suffered. A four-pack-a-day smoker, Sammy succumbed to cancer when he was sixty-four, shortly after celebrating six decades in the spotlight.

Renowned biographer of Hollywood giants Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster, and Gregory Peck, Gary Fishgall brings an actor's and director's understanding of the entertainment industry to Sammy's complicated existence. Meticulously researched and filled with insights gathered from interviews with those who knew Sammy best, Gonna Do Great Things reveals the fascinating and controversial life of this beloved entertainer.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Contents

Harlem and the Road
3
The Fortyfouryearold Midget
13
BREAKING ALL THE RULES
27
Fort Warren
29
Hungry and Mad
39
The Big Time
55
A Crucial Year
69
TOP OF THE HEAP
81
ANAGING HIPSTER FROM LALA LAND
233
Sad Times and Swinging Times
235
Altovise
249
Entering the Seventies
263
The Candy Man and the Man in the White House
273
An Open Marriage
289
A New Showroom a New Show and an Old Musical
305
Difficult Adjustments
318

The Return
83
Mr Wonderful
92
Kim Harry and Loray
107
Big Screen Little Screen
119
Lovers and Friends
133
The Rat Pack
144
May
156
A Oneman Band
168
Pallies
182
Golden Boy
190
On the Seventh Day He Works
199
A Book a Film and a TV Series
208
Thats All
222
NOW I LIKE ME
327
Ive Never Felt Better
329
Turning Sixty
341
The Alternative Is Something Else Again
352
I Dont Think This Is the Way Im Supposed to Go Out
364
Epilogue
377
Afterword
383
Notes
387
Bibliography
397
Filmography
403
Discography
407
Index
409
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page xiv - All copies acquired under this section shall be maintained by the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress.
Page 6 - ... such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the National Urban League, and the Commission on Interracial Cooperation.

References to this book

About the author (2010)

Gary Fishgall is the author of Gregory Peck: A Biography, Pieces of Time: The Life of James Stewart, and Against Type: The Biography of Burt Lancaster. He has been an actor, director, drama critic, and reporter. He lives in St. Louis.

Bibliographic information