Friday, March 12, 2010
"Hollywood In A Suitcase" by Sammy Davis, Jr.
It has been 30 years since this book was written. Mr. Davis was 54 years old when he wrote it. It's fortunate for us that he did as he passed away in 1989 at the pre-mature age of 64. And with his passing we would have missed out on alot of great memories and stories of Hollywood during the 1950's and 60's.
Unlike his first book "Yes I Can", which was released in 1965 (My Mom had it and I read it then as well as in my 20's) this one is not "ghostwritten" and doesn't seem to even have a co-editor. It is a book shot "straight from the hips." There are a few errors here and there concerning dates, but they are forgiveable.
Mainly the book is a collection of Mr. Davis' memories of his friends and the people who really helped him overcome barriers, both racial and later physical, as he struggled to make the transition from Vaudeville to Hollywood. Readers of "Yes I Can" will already be familiar with his early years as part of the Will Mastin Trio, of which he became a member at age 3. This is a man with show business truly in his blood. That first book also covered his service in Alabama during World War Two as well as the tragic car accident which cost him an eye.
This book is not a memoir, it is a collection of stories. Some of the best involve his friendships with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, John Wayne and of course, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He has an uncanny ability to "spill the beans" concerning some of these legends without being offensive or even intrusive about it. Perhaps it is the honesty with which he reviews his own life that makes it work without seeming to be a "kiss and tell" type book.
His freindships with Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Judy Garland and others are equally fascinating as they were all during a time when racial tensions were high. There were times when this caused danger for Mr. Davis as well as his freinds.
The most enjoyable part of this book for me was the insight into Bogart and how his freindship helped open doors for Mr. Davis in Hollywood. And the introduction of Sammy Davis to Frank Sinatra is interesting in and of itself. The whole book is written without pretense and in a very personal way, like a freind telling you stories. It seems as if this man never lost his humility, and yet he was able to dominate an entertainment arena that was, for the most part, "whites only." What a contrast!
For fans of Sammy Davis, Jr. and Hollywood in general, this book is a quick read and an unusual look at some of the legends that Mr. Davis was privleged to have worked alongside. An ideal read for a rainy day.