As charismatic and compelling as Sammy Davis Jr. was to earn the nickname “Mr. Show Business,” his life and career were met with many hardships: from traffic accident to racism and addiction. His success as a singer, dancer and film star, however, was not able to prevent him from the suffering of racism. Davis appeared in five films with his fellows of the Rat Pack during the first half of the 1960s: Ocean’s 11 (1960), Pepe (1960), Sergeants 3 (1962), Johnny Cool (1963), and Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964). In 1960, Davis married his second wife, the Swedish-born actress May Britt; their marriage resulted in a racially charged controversy, as anti-miscegenation laws in the U.S. still stood in 23 states at the time.
Let’s take a look back at the talented performer through these 32 vintage photographs taken from 1960 to 1965:
Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jnr, Dean Martin from The Rat Pack posed on The Summit at Sands Hotel in Las Vegas, February 1960. Photo by Bob Willoughby/Redferns.
Adlai Stevenson poses amiably for Sammy Davis, Jr., as smiling Judy Garland looks on, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, July 1960. Photo by Bettmann.
Sammy Davis Jr., performing at ‘Share’ benefit for mental health, 1960. Photo by Allan Grant/LIFE.
Sammy Davis Jr. on stage during rehearsals for his high-stakes Broadway debut in ‘Golden Boy,’ 1960. Photo by Leonard McCombe/LIFE.
Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett performing on a television show circa 1960. Photo by Archive Photos.