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Sammy Davis Jr’s overlooked movie

Sadly there aren’t many all around talents like Sammy Davis Jr. anymore. He could do anything and out perform anybody. Sing, dance, act, play several instruments, comedian, impressionist… You name it. he could do it, brilliantly. The entertainer’s entertainer.

Though his film and TV acting career was pretty spotty in terms of quality, he appeared in over 300 films and guest appearances on TV series, movies, variety shows and sit-coms during his career. Yet few have seen what could be one of his shining moments in the 1966 independently made film A Man Called Adam, which is actually a rather downbeat drama about an unsympathetic, self-centered, self-destructive, jazz musician.

Directed by TV director Leo Penn (Sean’s father), the film also features some absolutely great music and a black romance between Davis and the lovely dark-skinned Cicely Tyson, wearing her, back then, trademark short afro that was considered pretty radical and daring back then. (Hell, a romance with between two black people with a woman wearing an afro would be considered pretty radical and daring TODAY!) Sadly the film became forgotten, though not to lovers of jazz and jazz movies. However, fortunately, last month Lionsgagte has released a restored version of the film on DVD, along with a bonus CD of songs sung by Davis, Ray Charles and others. It’s worth taking a look.

8 comments to Sammy Davis Jr’s overlooked movie

  • Sammy Davis Junior was an amazing performer. I’ve seen this movie and you’re right, it is one of his best.

    In 1972, I got to see him perform live. It was at Jesse Jackson’s PUSH Expo…Davis flew in from London to be there. Cannonball Adderley was the band leader and the band was stellar..anybody you could name..herbie hancock, max roach..was in the band…Davis took the stage just to talk…not to sing…and the audience started booing him big time, like Apollo theatre booing…you see this was the year, Davis endorsed Richard Nixon for President….Jesse came on stage and shut down the booing saying you may not respect his politics…but at least respect the man…somebody in the crowd yelled…sing Candy Man…he did..starting a capella and the band fell in like it was rehearsed…he followed with I gotta be me and Mr Bojangles…got several standing ovations…One of the most incredible performances that I have ever seen and will never forget…

  • theyounglion

    Back in, I think it was 2003, the Museum of Television and Radio (in Beverly Hills) ran a two-month tribute to Davis called “Sammy in the Sixties: The Television Work of Sammy Davis, Jr.” I had time to kill one day, so I went to the museum to watch a screening (in their theater) of an hour-long 1963 TV taping Davis did at the BBC studios in London.

    And man, what I saw just completely blew me away. In the taping he sang, he danced, he told jokes, he did magic tricks, gunslinger stunts, impressions…and he did it all better than anyone. And he structured the hour in a way that had me on the edge of my seat in awe.

    Of course I’d known a lot about Davis before going to the museum that day. But watching his BBC performance really showed me the depth of his talents. I still tell people to this day that it is one of the greatest hours of TV I’ve ever seen, and I’ve urged many people since then to go to the museum, get a booth, and watch it.

  • Arron Day

    Hmmm… so would it be Don Cheadle or (gulp) Eddie Griffin who plays the Candyman?

  • Harlepolis

    Yeah, they released this film along with Ray Charles’ ONLY feature film “Ballad in Blue” through “Music Makers” series.

  • Art McGee

    Anna Lucasta is still my preferred choice, but this was OK melodrama.

    Note, the CD included with the DVD has the exact same 5 songs as all the other DVDs in the Music Makers series. Very lazy on their part not to include CDs tailored to each movie, but then, music rights can be expensive.

  • Eric

    Don Cheadle has already played Sammy Davis Jr. in an HBO flick about the Rat Pack. He obviously didn’t look like him, but he sounded just like him, and handled the dancing well in a very honest performance.

  • Eric

    Nevermind. I get it now. They’ve both played Sammy Davis. Duh.

  • Tamara

    Adds to Netflix. I watched Anna Lucasta recently. Thanks for posting.