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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTRIGUING BIO AND CHRONICLE
Sammy Davis, Jr., the true "I Gotta Be Me," man was not only a topnotch entertainer but also a tortured individual according to this exhaustive biography by journalist Wil Haygood. More than simply a comprehensive biography "In Black and White" is an intriguing chronicle of black entertainment in our country.
Trained by his father and uncle Sammy had no classroom...
Published on 13 Feb 2004 by Gail Cooke

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lack of honesty re/book's condition
I was told this book was in good shape, and yet when I received it, it was literally falling apart. By the time I read a part of it,I had to let the book fall in halves, and read each part separately. Be honest about the condition of the book!
Published 7 months ago by Mary Veal


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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INTRIGUING BIO AND CHRONICLE, 13 Feb 2004
By 
Gail Cooke (TX, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Sammy Davis, Jr., the true "I Gotta Be Me," man was not only a topnotch entertainer but also a tortured individual according to this exhaustive biography by journalist Wil Haygood. More than simply a comprehensive biography "In Black and White" is an intriguing chronicle of black entertainment in our country.
Trained by his father and uncle Sammy had no classroom education but a world of stage smarts. As a small child he mastered soft shoe and tap to become the star of the vaudeville threesome "The Will Mastin Trio." There seemed to be nothing the youngster couldn't do whether it was singing, dancing, playing an instrument or miming other performers.
This energetic bundle of talent couldn't be contained. He burst upon the television screen and was soon a member of Hollywood's celebrated "Rat Pack" paling around and joking on stage with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop.
Nonetheless, Sammy was black and they were white. He was very aware of the difference - where he could stay and where he could not. Once married to a black girl he later started dating blond white actresses and eventually wed May Britt, a union that shocked.
He survived a 1954 car accident which caused him to lose an eye, and his face with the black eye patch soon became familiar. For reasons unknown and only surmised he converted to Judaism. When he told Jerry Lewis of his plan, Lewis asked, "Don't you already have enough problems?"
Problems were to dog him for all of his life. Beneath the happy veneer was a wellspring of anguish.
"In Black and White" is a memorable biography of a one-of-a-kind entertainer and an eye-opening glimpse of the world of entertainment as it once was.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Wonderful, 22 Feb 2008
By 
S. Bentley "stuarthoratiobentley" (North Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This is a very well-thought out and researched biography of Sammy Davis Jnr, who was probably the greatest entertainer of his generation. Not just dealing with Sammy's life and the complications of his heritage (Cuban and African American, he was raised on the road by his father and Will Mastin, who had put him in their act), his religion (he converted to Judaism), and his hero worship of Frank Sinatra, but also with the social upheaval taking place in Sammy's lifetime and how he participated in it. Along the way we get intriguing mini-biographies of important figures in Sammy's life and summaries of the big political events taking place at the same time. The figures include the likes of Martin Luther King, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Jerry Lewis, Richard Nixon, JFK and Robert Kennedy, Kim Novak and more. Truly a who's who of celebrities and social movers in mid-Twentieth Century USA.

As someone who hadn't been around long when Sammy died, and who knew him primarily through things like the Cannonball Run, documentaries and his songs being used in advertisements, and being British to boot, I hadn't realised just how connected Sammy had been, how big a part he had played (albeit somewhat reluctantly) in the African Americans' movement for equality and respect. What makes it all the more intriguing is that the evidence in the book points to the fact that Sammy was happier with, and felt a greater desire to be with, the mainstream white culture of the time, and that was reflected in how he was perceived. Had Sammy been born into a less volatile society, perhaps there wouldn't be so many seemingly judgmental comments in the book about how Sammy "wanted to be white".

While the book is well-written and I think is a definite buy if you're remotely interested, there are a couple of itches in that Haygood does bring up the same points about Sammy's character - that he is constantly on the move and most happy when on the road, that he "wanted to be white" - pretty consistently throughout the book - even though he does paint a picture of a very complicated, conflicted man. It's a little annoying because the points begin to feel laboured and that you're being forced into accepting these points as truth. The book also skates over the Rat Pack stuff pretty quickly, focussing mainly on the relationship with Sinatra - but then that stuff has been gone over pretty thoroughly elsewhere.

The book is highly poignant. Like many driven people, Sammy Davis Jnr has a life that had incredible highs and deep lows, and there's a sense that the highs could have been higher in a fairer, less racially charged world. I can recommend this book wholeheartedly. You're bound to learn something new.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Incisive biography, 30 Mar 2009
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This incisive biography reveals Davis hated his own blackness so much that he compulsively pursued white women and cackled at racial putdowns from his Rat Pack cronies. The era's most dazzling entertainer was also its neediest, throwing endless parties and giving extravagant gifts (while piling up debts to the Mob and the IRS). This most enjoyable of biographies traces Sammy's motherless childhood spent on vaudeville stages, his adolescence on the entertainment circuit and his peak years as a star. Sammy's story draws a chilling portrait of a complex man who came to personify Las Vegas' flash as well as its lost soul.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An important book about race and entertainment, 21 Oct 2007
By 
J. Coyle "rolling stock" (Lancaster, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. (Hardcover)
A vital read for anyone interested in the history of race, civil rights and the entertainment industry. It is a hefty tome. To be honest, I found the background, the 'lesser' character - even more interesting than SD Jr himself!
The story of Will Mastin I found particulalry affecting. His story is intriguing. He lived 100 years and maintained his dignity throughout the trials and triumphs of the showman's life. Something that can not be said for Sammy, really, talent though he was.
Wil Haygood writes with authority and feeling. The book is literate, thought-provoking yet not pretentious. I first came across it in my local library and plan to buy it via Amazon.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The tale of Sammy's hidden pain and love of the limelight, 18 Oct 2007
By 
I. Thomson "The music, book and film fanatic" (Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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"In Black and White" by Wil Haygood is an important book for people to witness the arrival and demise of a genius-who not only never attended a day of School in his entire life, but was pushed into the limelight as the talent behind the Will Maston trio, which consisted of his father, Sammy Davis Snr and his friend, veteran vaudilian Will Mastin.

Haygood first tells the reader of how Davis Jnr's own autobiography Yes I Can being very much a product of the times, hence covering a lot of hidden secrets about his real-life estranged mother, whom regards as her son, but never felt any love for him. He wants to tell us the truth of the fate of the song and dance man

This biography discusses Davis' disrupted childhood, being passed from childminder to childmincer, why his own mother feels injustive to look after him and escapes to become a waitress in Atlantic City. How his own father arrives on the screen-the saviour of him and gives the opportunity of a limetime on the road which would prove to be his greatest assest-the birth of his extrordinary tap dancing.

Haygood describes how energic Sammy was in his performances when he often stole the show, later on he started encorapting minicks of famous people of the day. The obbession and idolisation of Frank Sinatra proved to be fatal for the young Sammy who during the course of most of his life after this period, compared his life to Sinatra. Sammy wanted to be Sinatra-but could never get close. For example, when Sinatra switched support to the Republicians in 1968, Sammy did so and visited the white house to meet Nixon-even on one extreme time when he hugged the president in a very controversial move. When Sammy started to get to know Sinatra, he always visited Sammy for his own sympathy, not because he loved Sammy. Dean Martin was always worried about his relationship with Sinatra and there is an implication it was Martin whom Sammy really looked up to, according to Haygood

Haygood also indicates how Sammy was also only admired by the white audiences and only acknowledged by the black audiences until his involvement with the civil rights movements and the performance of the troubled boxer Joe Washington Jnr let down by America's segrementation in Golden Boy. Sammy was influenced by white music and therefore wanted to be white rather than a black man. The book bares the age of the times where people similiar to Sammy suffered, how his race was both shunned and penalised and why he never felt comfortable.

During his life, Sammy was always made to feel to move on from his tap dancing days to become a member with the rat pack as an entertainer who told jokes, as a throat singer and eventually a mediorce actor. Haygood writes about his geniousity, how he always spent money like it was to burn on himself mostly jewellery and lavious presents for all his friends and current girlfriends, but got into a bit of bother when his lack of schooling meant he never understood how much he was spending nor how to pay for bills, hence the IRS watched him closely. For example, a friend of his wanted to know how much was being paid to pump his pool full of water.

Haygood ensures this is a well researched, shocking and harrowing tale to all those with an interest into not only the life of Sammy Davis Jnr of all the success he was given, an absence of a mother figure devoid him of love and self-esteem which made him vulenerable and an easy target for racists hence his apperance of a mother's boy. In Conclusion, the only space where his confidence ever felt safe was in the privary of a stage where he would be able to dance all his troubles away.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lack of honesty re/book's condition, 30 Nov 2013
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I was told this book was in good shape, and yet when I received it, it was literally falling apart. By the time I read a part of it,I had to let the book fall in halves, and read each part separately. Be honest about the condition of the book!
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In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.
In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr. by Wil Haygood (Hardcover - 22 July 2004)
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