“Look, I have terrible news for you,” said the short, stocky man who forced Sam Davis Sr.’s father, the father of Sammy Davis Jr., into the early days of January 1958. Cornered on the Hollywood Park Racetrack, he had no choice but to listen carefully to what was being said. “I just got a call from Chicago saying I should hurt Sammy.”
The man with the menacing tone was Mickey Cohen, a gangster by profession and an unstable temperament. “There’s only one way to get away with it. I’ll give you 24 hours to marry a colorful girl, ”he concluded.
We still lived in an America divided by the color singer, dancer, and actor Sammy Davis Jr. knew well. But even though it had become one of the biggest stars in the artistic community – it was the only black element of the famous Rat Pack, the then-hip artist group composed by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford – it ended up being the To be the protagonist of a scandalous romance that almost ended in tragedy.
The threat was serious, and Sammy decided to seek equally effective protection. The next call she directed to Sam Giancana, the Chicago gangster. The answer wasn’t what he intended: “We can protect you here in Chicago or Las Vegas, but we can’t do anything in Hollywood. Don’t come home without checking things out with Harry Cohn. “
Harry Cohn was an unusual character. A strong Hollywood man who made Columbia Pictures grow, he had a reputation for being tough. He received the staff with a whip in hand that he cracked on the desk when he got angry, revealing the “Vanity Fair”. On the same desk there was always a photo of the fascist Benito Mussolini.
“I stopped covering Al Capone’s news to cover Harry Cohn. Cohn was by far her cruelty, ”revealed journalist James Bacon. “He used to fire people, especially on Christmas Eve.”
Rita Hayworth and Harry Cohn
It really would have been Cohn to ask the West Coast Mafia a favor to have Sammy Davis leaned against the wall. “He didn’t ask to be killed, he asked to break his legs or cut his other eye [Sammy perdeu um dos olhos num acidente aos 29 anos]”Reveals” Vanity Fair “Arthur Silver, a close friend of the singer.
Cohn’s problem with Davis had started the year before at the Chez Paree Club in Chicago, where the singer was playing. In the audience was a famous face with flawlessly white skin, almost perfect features and blond hair. She asked to meet you in person. He also. She was Kim Novak, Colombia’s new star, Hitchcock’s next star – she would be the protagonist of “Vertigo,” which would debut the following year – and protected from Harry Cohn.
He was recruited by the Columbia boss at the age of 20 and it was himself who said that after his great job, Rita Hayworth, she would be his last star. In Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s, talent was treated as a valuable asset, and Cohn did just that with Novak, who was dormitory day and night until he became the pearl that grossed the studio millions of dollars.
Another rule was unbreakable: men were not allowed. The young stars’ relationships and pregnancies were a risk the studios couldn’t take. Sex appeal (and money) was lost as soon as the ring fell on your finger – and there are hundreds of stories of forced abortions and prohibitive clauses in old Hollywood. https://www.nit.pt/cultura/cinema/abortos-drogas-e-assedio-vida-pouco-charmosa-da-atrizes-historicas-em-hollywood
Kim Novak shone in Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”
In that fall of 1957, Novak dared to break all the rules. The meeting at Chez Paree ended at a party at Davis’, where the two began a relationship. Novak, the young white, blonde, and movie star, with Sammy Davis Jr., an artistic giant but still a black man. The relationship was fraught with enormous risk for both: it could ruin both careers in one fell swoop.
Even at secret meetings, the tabloids picked up the rumors and opened everything up in the columns devoted to gossip. “This movie star (KN) is in a romance with another big name in the entertainment (SD) industry,” it was written. The revelation quickly reached Cohn.
According to Vanity Fair, Sammy Davis, aware of the risk in Novak’s career, apologized and left the decision in his hands. The defiant actress didn’t want to know. The relationship remained stable, if more intimate than before.
Davis visited her and hitchhiked in a friend’s car where he hid under carpets. Later they rented a house on the beach for the most secret meetings.
Although well established in the industry, the risk for Davis was very real. He almost lost his role in the 1958 film General Electric Theater because the sponsors didn’t want to irritate the conservative and racist public in the southern states. In the 1950s, black men were still lynched for whistling white women.
Cohn found out about the relationship during a trip to New York and made an urgent trip to Los Angeles the next day. Halfway through the trip, he suffered a minor heart attack. The reaction would be worse if the rumors of a possible marriage kicked in.
Sammy Davis Jr. lived days of panic. Accompanied by Silber, they fell asleep with weapons by their side, now with live ammunition. “It was scary. Sammy and I liked to play with guns, but it was always done. For the first time in my life I started throwing real bullets at him. Sammy too. We never knew who was sleeping in the next room” , he entrusted “Vanity Fair”.
Sammy Davis Jr. slept with a loaded gun
One night, Sammy got dressed and was preparing to go out. “I will find someone to marry. I have to marry a black girl. “
A few days after receiving the threat, on January 10th, he married Loray White, a 23-year-old singer who was going to her third wedding. The agreement was simple: he would receive payment in exchange for the marriage, and within a year the union would be terminated. Only in this way could Cohn and his henchmen be appeased.
The bride was 40 minutes late and the ceremony lasted no more than two minutes. The intended call came in the suite: “Can you say [ao Sammy] Mickey telling me everything is fine You can already relax ”.
More than fifty years later, debates are still going on as to whether the singer’s life was really in danger or it was just a little unsubstantiated blackmail. Sy Marsh, Davis’ former agent and partner, says, “He was only inches away from the murder.”
The relationship ended. Davis maintained his successful career – and he would re-engage with a blonde whom he would marry in another controversial relationship – and Novak would leave Hollywood forever years later. Ironically, the man who ruined the relationship died a little over a month after Davis’ wedding. Cohn suffered a fatal heart attack in February 1958.
Davis and Novak would cross two more. At the 1979 Academy Awards, when they hugged, they fled the scene for a 45-minute chat and returned to dance at the ball. And finally in 1990 at the hospital, where Sammy was waiting to die after years of battling throat cancer. They talked while they sat on the bed – but before that, Sammy had asked them to come to his house and bring him his nicest pajamas and silk robes. Everything from Kim Novak.
Such a story could only make a movie – and it will. The production is called “Scandalous!” and should have Jeremy Pope in the roles of Davis Jr. and Janet Mock as Kim Novak. It is not yet known when the premiere is planned.