Today in history… May 16th 1990, entertainer, icon, American treasure, Sammy Davis Jr’s, died of cancer in Los Angeles at age 64.
Recalling my ealry April 50+ Biopic Projects On Black Public Figures “In Limbo” post, there are 3 Sammy projects we know of that are in some stage of development – 1 a feature film; the other 2 stage works.
First, it was announced last December that Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios acquired rights to his life story from his daughter Tracey Davis, with plans to develop both a feature film AND a stage production.
“On his deathbed, one of the last things my father told me as he put my face in his hands was: ‘Tracy, tell my story. Warts and all’,” said Tracey Davis, and, apparently, Byron Allen is the man for the job.
And, as a star of stage and screen (big and small), singer, dancer, husband (thrice), children, near-fatal accident, conversion to Judaism, hanging out in the White House with presidents, and much more… what a full, stirring life Sammy Davis Jr led, which could translate into one heck of a film… depending on who else is involved in putting it all together.
And second,Yes I Can, a new musical inspired by the life and times of Davis Jr is reportedly in the works from producers Arlie Cone and Steven Hayes, with a possible Broadway run on the horizon.
Sam Scalamoni of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, is set to direct.
While we wait to hear on the status of Byron Allen’s 2 projects, Yes I Can moves forward with a five-week workshop scheduled that was to begin in New York this spring.
Yes I Can is also said to be simply inspired by Davis’ life, and is intended as a musical fable featuring a charismatic, triple-threat song-and-dance man, in the same way that Dreamgirls featured a Supremes-like Motown girl group.
The show, which will feature music by Tony Award-winner Charles Strouse, is only the latest in a string of Davis-themed musicals, including the Old Globe Theatre’s 2009 production of Sammy, and Eric Jordan Young’s 2006 production, Sammy & Me.
And this won’t be the first time he’s *represented* on screen; You may recall that Don Cheadle won a Golden Globe for his performance as Davis in the 1998 HBO film The Rat Pack; also worth noting is that several comedians/actors have impersonated Davis during their careers, like Eddie Griffin, Garrett Morris, Eddie Murphy, Tim Meadows, Tommy Davidson and even Billy Crystal and others.
Maybe one of them will be hired to play him in the film… but likely not.
A lot still has to happen before this is realized, so I won’t get too excited just yet. As already well-documented on S&A, there are a number of other biopics on the lives of black entertainers that have long been in development, and are still in limbo; Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, MLK, James Brown and about 50 others.