(b New York, NY, Dec 8, 1925; d Beverly Hills, CA, May 16, 1990). American singer, dancer, and actor. Widely regarded as one of the greatest entertainers of his time, he sang, danced, acted, played several instruments, performed comic impersonations, and excelled at the variety entertainment format popular in American vaudeville, nightclubs, and television. His parents were vaudeville dancers frequently on tour, so Davis spent his earliest years with his grandmother. In 1928 his father took Davis on the road, where he made his debut with Will Mastin’s vaudeville review as Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget. Although he began as a dancer, as his talent and reputation grew he incorporated songs and comic impersonations into his act. His final public performance was in 1989 on a television special, The 60th Anniversary Salute to Sammy Davis, Jr. Throughout his long career Davis performed many styles of music, but he is best known for his jazz-influenced performances of Broadway show tunes. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and together they set the standard for nightclub-style performance before the dominance of rock and roll....
Sharon O’Connell Campbell
(b Statesboro, GA, March 18, 1975). American performer. Embodying the “triple-threat” performance model of singer, actor, and dancer, Sutton Foster enjoyed a rapid rise to musical theater stardom. Foster debuted on Broadway in 1993 as a chorus member and understudy for Eponine in Les Misérables (opened 1987), then played Sandy Dumbrowski in Grease (1994). She appeared in Annie (1997) and The Scarlet Pimpernel (1997). Foster created the role of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s Millie Dillmount in California tryouts in 2000. Despite being little-known, she was cast for the show’s Broadway (2002) opening; her performance earned Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Best Actress in a Musical, and an Astaire Award for Best Female Dancer. Subsequently, Foster created the roles of Jo in Little Women (2005), Janet Van De Graaff in The Drowsy Chaperone (...
[Kaminski, David Daniel ]
(b Brooklyn, NY, Jan 18, 1913; d Los Angeles, CA, March 3, 1987). American Singer, dancer, and actor. Kaminski began his career as an entertainer by traveling widely and working nonmusical day jobs. He was first billed as Danny Kaye in 1933 while working with the dancing act of David Harvey and Kathleen Young. Kaye specialized in singing with non-English accents punctuated with spurts of double-talk, tongue twisters, face contortions, and dancing. He met his wife, pianist and songwriter Sylvia Fine, while working variety shows in New York, and, with her assistance, developed some of his most famous numbers, including “Stanislavsky,” “Anatole of Paris,” and “Melody in Four F.” In 1939 Kaye appeared in Broadway in his Straw Hat Revue and again in 1941 in Cole Porter’s Let’s Face It.
Kaye’s film career began in 1944 with the RKO film Up in Arms. Other musical comedy films in which he starred included ...
(b Cayce, MS, March 27, 1917; d Memphis, TN, Dec 15, 2001). American singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian, and radio announcer. One of Thomas’s earliest gigs was as part of the dance team Rufus and Johnny with the legendary Rabbit Foot Minstrels. He later forged a distinguished career as a comic (in the duo “Rufus and Bones”) and master of ceremonies at all of the important black theaters in Memphis. In the early 1950s Thomas hosted the daily “Sepia Swing Club” and “Hoot ‘n’ Holler” shows on local black appeal radio station WDIA. Beginning in 1949, Thomas recorded for Star Talent, Meteor, Chess, and, most notably, Memphis’ Sun Records before signing with Satellite (soon-to-be Stax) Records in 1960. His most successful recording pre-Stax was an answer song conceived as a response to Big Mama Thornton’s R&B hit “Hound Dog.” Titled “Bear Cat” and released in 1953, the record was Sun’s first bona-fide hit, peaking at number three on ...
(Fredericka Carolyn )
(b Savannah, GA, Dec 23, 1903; d Stamford, CT, June 28, 1994). American actress, dancer, singer, and writer. Washington was one of the first widely recognized African American stage and film actresses. She performed in the Broadway musical Shuffle Along (1921–6); as Paul Robeson’s costar in Black Boy (1926); on European tour with dance partner Al Moiret (1927–8); and in shows including Singin’ the Blues (1931), Run, Little Chillun’! (1933), Mamba’s Daughters (1939), a revival of Porgy and Bess (1943), Lysistrata (1946), and A Long Way from Home (1948). Her film credits include Black and Tan Fantasy (1929; with Duke Ellington), The Old Man of the Mountain and The Emperor Jones (1933), and One Mile from Heaven (1937). In 1934, Washington (whose mother was Caucasian) appeared in the film ...