Sammy Davis Jr. was an American singer, actor, and comedian born in Harlem in 1925. His career spanned almost 60 years due to his father Sammy Davis Sr. taking him on the road from age 3 with the Will Mastin Trio. Davis Jr. was called to serve in the army in 1943 during World War II. During this time he was assigned to the Special Services which was the entertainment branch of the American military. On his return, he rejoined the Trio but was quickly singled out as an individual talent.
In 1959 Davis became a member of "The Rat-Pack" formed by his friend Frank Sinatra.
This photo by Duffy of Sammy Davis Jr & his wife May-Britt was taken in 1960 for Vogue. The same year Davis starred in the movie 'Ocean's 11.' At the time interracial marriage was banned in 31 US states before President Kennedy was elected and the laws were changed. This relationship at the time was very controversial in the United States. Although interracial marriage had been legal in California since 1948, Anti-miscegenation laws still stood in 23 states. May-Britt converted to Judaism prior to her marriage.
Duffy spoke of this image in an interview with Icon Magazine in 2009. He said of the session 'May-Britt was Swedish and had appeared in the Marlon Brando film 'The Young Lions' and their marriage had caused enormous controversy in the US. You've got to remember the period, it was just unheard of for a black man to marry this very beautiful, very white girl and it caused quite a stir in this country too, although nowhere near as much as in America. suspect, he felt Britain was quite a racist country. He was very colour conscious. He was one of the most insecure people I've ever photographed; He was like an eggshell, absolutely no confidence at all. He was fine if he was sitting on a stool with a cane or a bowler hat, as he was always trying to be Mr. Showbiz, but he'd never been shot like this before. I didn't do anything special, I think I just asked and people would acquiesce, especially if they could tell I didn't have an angle and wasn't trying to score off them.'
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