Picks and Pans Review: Sammy Davis Jr.
E!(Sun., July 29, 9p.m. ET)
Sammy Davis Jr. had a fascinating, tumultuous life—breaking down racial barriers, running with Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, hugging Richard Nixon, battling throat cancer (before succumbing in 1990). But there would have been no Davis the celebrity without Davis the entertainer—the singing, dancing dynamo who, as one observer puts it in this documentary, "wanted to pulverize an audience."
Alas, that talent is on severely limited display in this otherwise worthwhile True Hollywood Story. Performance clips are brief and mostly without sound. Because E! couldn't obtain the necessary legal clearances, Davis's remarkable singing voice goes unheard in these two hours—except for one pseudo-soulful screech that seems like bogus James Brown.
You'll have to let Davis's songs play in your head (try "What Kind of Fool Am I?") as E! offers valuable recollections from his family and friends. Wives Mai Britt and Altovise Gore Davis both speak of Sammy warmly but candidly, while son Mark describes him as a virtual absentee father. What's wanting here is more of his vital presence as an artist.
Bottom Line: A little flat without the music