I’ve previously posted video of Sammy Davis Jr. as a child dancing. Here he is, later in his career. The opening clip as part of the Will Mastin Trio sure convinces me that breakdancing isn’t anything new. Later in the video, Sammy can be seen tapping with some of the other tap dancing greats.
Monday Morning, Mr. Wonderful, as Sammy Davis’s character in his first Broadway play was called.
If Sammy Davis were only a dancer he would be known as one of the greatest tap dancers of the 20th century.
If he were only a singer he would be known as one of the greatest male vocalists of the 20th century.
He was both.
Here he is with a song from his second musical, Golden Boy, from 1964, about an African-American boxer who falls in love with a white woman.
Paula Wayne who played Sammy’s lover, Lorna, in the show, said that when the time came during rehearsals for Sammy to kiss her, Sammy was very reluctant to do so. It was the first time an interracial kiss had happened on the Broadway stage; but Paula insisted that there would be no problem. She was soon to find out otherwise—the day after the show opened there were pickets in front of the theatre from white supremacists groups denouncing the show.
But the show ran for 500+ performances and had a great, under-appreciated score by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams—probably the best score they ever created.
When tap dancing legend Maurice Hines was asked in an interview for the name of the greatest tap dancer he had ever seen, he replied Sammy Davis, Jr. That answer surprised me, because though my generation knew Sammy Davis as a singer and dancer and Rat Pack member, I didn’t know that he was also a child tap-dancing prodigy. Above is an extraordinary clip from a short called “Rufus Jones for President” (1933) starring the 7-year old Sammy Davis, Jr. Click on the video above for an amazing few minutes of sheer joy.
You can see the whole movie, starring Ethel Waters, on YouTube. In it, mother Ethel Waters dreams about her son becoming the first Black President while singing “Am I Blue?” and “Underneath A Harlem Moon.”