Customer Reviews: Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr.
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on March 31, 2007
Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of the GREAT entertainer's of the 20th Century (Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra are also on that list). The photos are a GREAT record of his life and the people he surrounded himself with. Unfortunately, some of the text was poorly researched.

One passage makes reference to his triumphant CIRO'S comeback show after his 1955 car accident and makes mention of the many stars in attendance, including Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. Impossible, as Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash, January 1942. A similar mistake is made regarding his opening night party to celebrate the Broadway show GOLDEN BOY in 1965. Another list of stars in attendance at the aftershow party makes mention of Marilyn Monore at this party. She may have been there in spirit as she and Sammy were good friends, but as most people know, Marilyn died in August of 1962. These are simple editing/research errors that should have been easily caught.

Inspite of the text errors, this book is HIGHLY recommended to fans of old Hollywood, the Rat Pack and of Sammy himself.
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on September 25, 2007
Few have personified the phrase "self-made man" as did legendary entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990). The world remembers Davis for his varied and extraordinary accomplishments as an actor, singer, musician, dancer, and comedian.

But hardly anyone outside his circle of friends and family has been familiar with his photography--until now. With this hefty book, interspersed with reminisces by longtime friend Burt Boyar (who co-wrote Davis's autobiographies Yes I Can and Why Me?), his old fans and a new generation can revel in hundreds of images that reveal yet another significant facet of Davis's far-reaching talents.

Though Photo lacks the singular thematic focus of books published by such photographer-celebrities as Dennis Hopper and Gerry Spence, that's no drawback for this posthumously published volume. Rather, it pulls the reader into the exciting world of nightclubs, casinos, and Beverly Hills homes in which Davis moved, mostly from the late 1940s through early '70s. A voracious shutterbug, he took his photography seriously: his compositions are strikingly iconic, employing sophisticated use of line and form. Yet, his pictures are mostly snapshots--in the best sense of the word: they capture their subjects spontaneously, and his joie de vivre suffuses his work. Think of it as a highly stylized family album packed with candid portraits of "Rat Pack" pals Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Shirley MacLaine, as well as other famous friends like Nat "King" Cole, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Sidney Poitier, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Jerry Lewis, and Bill Cosby.

Among the more touching aspects of this book are the portraits of his actual family: his parents, his second wife May Britt and their children, and his third wife (and widow) Altovise Gore Davis. The most poignant are the many shots of actress Kim Novak, the first great love of Davis's life, who was forced by Columbia Pictures studio chief Harry Cohn to break off their relationship (interracial relationships were strictly taboo in 1950s Hollywood, not to mention in society generally).

One photograph, despite its matter-of-fact framing, is particularly chilling. Through the window of a passenger train en route to Miami, Davis snapped a picture of an elderly white gentleman on a station platform holding a cigarette, standing before a pair of double doors over which the foreboding phrase "WHITE WAITING ROOM" is painted. Davis's photographic abilities and inclinations were such that we see a mostly glamorous world through his eye. Thus, when we arrive at this jarring image, it's impossible not to apprehend it from his point-of-view--and also not to feel the sense of injustice that he must have experienced in the Jim Crow South as he clicked the shutter.

As Davis's show business career took off, many venues--even north of the Mason-Dixon Line--were happy to let blacks perform onstage; but the same headliner artists weren't even permitted to drink at the bar, use a dressing room, or occupy one of their hotel rooms. Photographs from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial, and portraits of politician friends Senator Robert Kennedy and President Richard Nixon, give silent witness to Davis's largely forgotten achievements as an outspoken civil rights advocate.

Photo is a coffee-table book that won't spend much time on the coffee table if your houseguests are anything like mine. Because of a car crash in 1954, Sammy Davis, Jr., was left with only one eye. But what an eye this cat had!
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on March 14, 2007
I was absolutely blown away by this amazing, totally unexpected book of Sammy Davis, Jr.'s extremely intimate personal photography (mostly B&W shot with 35mm rangefinder cameras). We don't have stars like Davis' subjects here anymore, not because ours shine less brilliantly but because WE KNOW TOO MUCH ABOUT THEM. Paging through this collection is like a combination of time travel and delicious, mouth-watering voyeurism. I love photography books but this tops almost everything I've seen for both pure fun and historical significance. Assuming, of course, that you think of popular culture as significant. I think it must be, since there's precious little else left in this country today.
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on June 21, 2007
I originally picked up this book as a curiosity and found its links to a bygone era utterly fascinating. The subject matter, i.e., rat pack photos were wonderful but the photographic mastery of Davis Jr. is, I think, equally as stunning. A look into Davis Jr.'s remarkable life is given by him in the way, like other great photographers, he insightfully choses to document and communicate with his subjects through the lens. Again, like many great photographers, the images are powerful and soft, crisp and dazzling. More talent revealed from a man who had more in his baby finger than most of us have coursing through our entire bodies.
Bravo. Well done.
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on March 5, 2013
As Sammy's biographer and the author of this book I cannot opine, but I can say that I have heard many, many excamations of joy over the book, including from Barbara Sinatra and Jeannie Martin. As the author I bought it as an ebook to see how a large coffee table book looked reduced to the size of an iPad and I was both amazed and thrilled to see that the photos Sammy took have all the power and impact on the small screen as they do in the large book..

Burt Boyar
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on January 2, 2014
I knew SDJ was an incomparable artist in the field of entertainment. Pound for pound, I can think of few who've even come close.

But I didn't know he was a dedicated photog until a few years ago when I heard about this book. This book shows that his artistry went way beyond the stage. There are candid photos of his celeb buddies that only a fellow star would have access to take.

And even though I couldn't afford it then, when I bought it used though Amazon, I was happily surprised at the great condition it was in. Kudos to Amazon and its retail partners.

Lowell "RaceMan" Thompson
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on December 2, 2014
In addition to his unbelievable range of entertainment talents, Sammy Davis, Jr., was an excellent photographer. His picture of Lee Marvin, to cite just one example, captures the actor who portrayed so many tough guys as warm, human, and likable - even verging on vulnerable. Mr. Davis similarly displays his other subjects with their guards somewhat down, being themselves, not just entertainers. The Rat Pack, Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, and other legends are here. Mr. Davis also documents historic moments, such as the 1963 march on Washington from the perspective of an insider, not a journalist looking in. He has photographs of world leaders like the Kennedys in candid moments. The pictures alone in this book are a treasure trove of history.
The underplayed line, "Text by Burt Boyar," however, is a rich bonus. Rather than simply describing what the reader sees, Mr. Boyar delves into revealing moments about the lives that unfold in the pages of this book, especially the dramatic life of his good friend, the photographer Sammy Davis, Jr. Although Mr. Boyar wrote about entertainers and their lives for many years, his commentary provides more than the usual show-biz gossip we see so often; he crystallizes defining moments and tersely offers insights. His words are the finishing touch on this masterpiece of history and American culture.
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on March 28, 2007
This is an outstanding collection of photos taken personally by Sammy Davis Jr. It is a larger then life recap of not only his personal career but also gives us a glimpse at the personal lives of Sinatra,Martin,Lewis Kennedy,Lawford, Bishop and the whole "Rat Pack" as well as Shirley MClaine and Marilyn Monroe, just to name a few.I would highly recommend it to those individuals that really appreciated the careers and lives of so many of the super stars of that era that touched his life.
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on January 28, 2015
As a photography enthusiast myself, I was happily surprised of the wide range of subjects surrounding his life that were covered in his photos, and of the high degree of quality of his photography with respect to the Art itself. Additionally, the book is full of anecdotes and inside information that highlight the personal and artistic aspects of his life and his relationship with the great Hollywood figures of his Era. If a fan of Hollywood history and of the Art of photography, I can not think of a better printed work and read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 27, 2010
One of the multi-talented Sammy Davis' interests was photography. Beginning in the mid-1940s, he began snapping shots of fellow show biz entertainers, famous people and other subjects. A decade-and-a-half after Davis' death, his long-time friend Burt Boyar selected several hundred of Davis' b&w and color photographs, added a lengthy biographical narrative and published PHOTO BY SAMMY DAVIS, JR. in 2007.

PHOTO BY SAMMY DAVIS, JR. is a hefty book, maxing out at 338 pages. In one respect, it's a marvelous, nostalgic trip down 'Entertainment Lane.' Snaps of Frank, Dean, Joey Bishop, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Jerry Lewis, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, etc. give the reader a rare, behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood, Vegas and Broadway. Seeing so many of those storied performers in their prime is a treat. Other photos show Martin Luther King and assorted people and events connected with the 1960s civil rights movement along with generic shots of various subjects (slums, bums on a street, views from a hotel window, life in the Davis family, etc.).

Photo quality varied. Some shots were right on the mark; others, not so great. Boyar's reminiscences were a definite plus, offering insights into a very complex individual.

Depending on your expectations, PHOTO BY SAMMY DAVIS, JR. should be of interest. While some of the photos aren't that greatest technically, the combination of rare images and affectionate memories will bring the talented Mr. Davis to life once again. Recommended.
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