TIFF Docs

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me

Sam Pollard

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A star-studded roster of interviewees (including Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal) pay tribute to the legendary, multi-talented song-and-dance man, in this exhilarating addition to the American Masters series.

A dancer, singer, impressionist, and actor of unparalleled charisma, Sammy Davis Jr. began dazzling audiences at age three and never stopped until his death at 64. A star of stage and screen and member of the legendary Rat Pack, he broke racial barriers but paid a heavy price for it. Defying societal norms concerning interracial romance, religion, and political affiliation, Davis courted controversy many times, but always with grace and honesty.

Filmmaker Sam Pollard has extensive experience covering Black America. An accomplished editor and a long-time collaborator with Spike Lee, his directing credits include Slavery by Another Name and episodes of Eyes on the Prize II. His portrayal of Davis captures the high-wire-act tension that typified the performer's life.

Davis inspired African Americans with his showbiz successes and his alignment with Martin Luther King; he also baffled progressive admirers by campaigning for Nixon and going to Vietnam. He was a performer and a patriot, and as devoted to Judaism as he was to entertainment. For the uninitiated, who mainly think of Davis as the singer of "The Candy Man" and the butt of Rat Pack jokes, this film reveals the complexities of his career.

Pollard scores insightful interviews with Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and others who knew Davis, and offers a stunning array of archival performances for newcomers to discover. If you've never beheld Davis in action, prepare to gasp in awe and delight.

THOM POWERS

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