Movies and Books of the month|

Sammy Davis, Jr. (Photo by Warner Bros/REX/Shutterstock)

The first trailer for Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me gives us a look at the first major film documentary about the legendary entertainer. Directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, the docu puts the spotlight on Davis’ personal life and career as he navigated through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th century America.

Davis’ journey to achieve the American Dream was complex, complicated and contradictory. As a black entertainer during a time when the doors of show business rarely opened for people of color, he frequently found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America; he was the most public black figure to embrace Judaism, thereby yoking his identity to another persecuted minority.

Featuring interviews with such luminaries as Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection and excerpts from his electric performances in television, film and concert, I’ve Gotta Be Me takes a look at the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across the country from the Depression era through the 1980s.

The film is set to debut next month during the Toronto International Film Festival. I’ve Gotta Be Me is an American Masters Pictures production in co-production with ZDF in collaboration with ARTE, directed by Sam Pollard and produced by Sally Rosenthal and Michael Kantor. The film is edited by Steven Weschler and written by Laurence Maslon. Michael Kantor serves as executive producer.

I’m really looking forward to “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” the new PBS documentary on the great Sammy Davis, Jr., which will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month (September 7-17th). The film was directed by Sam Pollard, who is also the Executive Producer of the upcoming Vintage Black Glamour documentary! #SammyDavisJr #SamPollard #IveGottaBeMe #vintageblackglamour’ve-gotta-be-me-trailer-documentary-sam-pollard-toronto-international-film-festival-1202149876/

Sammy Davis Jr Biopic Aligns With Estate, Moves Forward With Producers Lionel Richie & Lorenzo Di Bonaventura

EXCLUSIVE: After decades of disputes, legal fights and finally a court order last spring, the heirs to the estate of Sammy Davis Jr are now dancing to the same tune. They are joining with a producing team led by Lionel Richie, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mike Menchel in a rights deal to make a movie based on Davis’ extraordinary life and show-biz career.

The project will be based on the 1965 Davis memoir Yes I Can: The Story Of Sammy Davis, Jr., penned by Burt Boyar with Davis and his wife Jane.

Davis’ life is rich source material. Born in Harlem to a pair of vaudeville dancers, he joined the family act and continued to perform in the Army during World War II. He recorded blues albums and in 1956 starred on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful. By the late 1950s he became a member of the famed Rat Pack alongside Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. A string of movies followed. Davis was almost killed in a 1954 car crash in San Bernardino that cost him his left eye. During his recovery he began studying Judaism and he converted in 1961.

A prodigiously talented singer, dancer and instrumentalist, Davis’ career ran the gamut from Harlem nightclubs to Hollywood. Colleagues and friends included masters of tap dancing, recording stars from Nat King Cole to Michael Jackson, and the top arrangers across several decades. Davis headlined in Las Vegas with and without his Rat Pack pals; at the Frontier, he was forced to room offsite, as black artists weren’t allowed to stay at the hotels, gamble in the casinos, or use the dressing rooms. He later refused to work for companies that segregated.

Davis died in 1990.

“Sammy’s life story is an unparalleled tale of what can be achieved with unbridled perseverance and talent,” said di Bonaventura. “It is at its essence a uniquely American story of one man’s ability to use his talents to reach the pinnacle of his profession.”

Added Richie: “It’s an honor for me to bring the life of one of my idols and friends to the screen. I’m so grateful to be working closely with the Davis family on this and couldn’t be happier to be moving forward on this passion project.”

All of Davis’ heirs — his four sons and a daughter — are behind the biopic.

“I am happy to tell the whole entire world that my family and I look forward to working with everyone to educate audiences of all ages about our father’s incredible American adventure,” said his youngest son Manny, the estate administrator.

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