• In Black and White

  • The Life of Sammy Davis, Jr.
  • By: Wil Haygood
  • Narrated by: Kevin Free
  • Length: 23 hrs and 47 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (126 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

This biography of entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. is an enthralling portrait of one of the most recognizable figures from the golden age of American show business. Davis, a guarded man who protected his private life with great vigor, lived an extraordinary life in the limelight, while also forging new uncharted paths across racial lines.
©2003 Wil Haygood (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

Critic Reviews

"Haygood never loses sight of Sammy the entertainer, indefatigable on stage and insatiable in his craving for adoration. A fascinating American life story, brilliantly told." (Booklist)
"[Haygood] does a vivid job of conjuring the many worlds [Sammy Davis, Jr.] traversed, and shows how the issue of race, in his own mind and in the minds of his fans and detractors, shaped his career and life." (The New York Times)
"Haygood's reporting and powerful prose reveal Davis's career against the backdrop of the swinging '60s and the Rat Pack (with Sinatra as a mighty presence in Davis's life) and Davis as a tragically complex man." (Publishers Weekly)

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What listeners say about In Black and White

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Sammy Plus

First, let me say that in In Black and White, the reader gets a careful documentary of Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr., one of the most important black entertainers of the 20th century. But - and this is a wonderful plus - we get a brief picture of the progression (or lack of it) of civil rights in the United States. All of Sammy's talent did not make a difference in his acceptance by those in power. Whether he was under the thumb of Frank Sinatra or licking the wounds created by his mother's rejection, one gets a sense of Sammy, the unhappy song-and-dance man. Sammy never seemed able to accept the love his talent accorded him. He wanted the acceptance that only he could give himself.

This is a fascinating and sad look at a man who made it all the way up the ladder only to find that the top didn't afford him the love he wanted.

The epilogue wherein the author meets with Sammy's mother is chilling. It speaks frighteningly to the hurdles Davis was ill-equipped to hurdle: namely, the parent who could never be pleased.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Reading this book was a fabulous adventure!

I almost put it down after ten minutes. It started out not connecting with my curiosity as it came begins as angry and resentful, and I just didn't feel like being a therapist for the writer. Then, it took a sharp turn into a magical and well written story about culture, time, people, bridges, energy and time. I couldn't put it down. The author is a truly gifted story teller with very keen insight into the wants, needs, and intrinsic values of people. Clearly bringing out avenues of adventure and humanity not explored before by any one else. Many parts of the book read like prose poetry for me. He opened the door to Vaudeville culture for me. The book was generous towards the good natures of people and unbiased. I would pre order without any hesitation any book forthcoming from this author. He has the gift and artistry to take the reader places they would not go without his vision, and loving story telling.

The narrator as well, annoyed me for the first five to ten minutes. But as the story got better so did the narrator. He did a great job and I cam to appreciate hearing the small breaths that popped up now and then. It made the experience more human and real.

You will not forget the book, or the voice. A real pleasure!

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing

This man's story is amazing. This is one of those rare books that you wish would never end from the beginning it was just a little slow but be patient because this guys life is definitely worth listening to I found myself just sitting in the car listening to the story even if I was late for work I really got caught up in the story because Sammy was somebody that I remembered from a kid. I remember watching him on the Ed Sullivan show and always on television with Sinatra and Dean Martin but to really know his life story is surely an amazing story. It's also a tearjerker so be aware

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Can't touch the man

It's funny how the book starts with the chapter about Sammy's autobiography, Yes I Can. It talk of how the polished stack of mistruths was thrown together to glorify Sammy. But, this book, revealing many of his flaws, still makes him out to be a truly loving soul and probably one of the greatest entertainers we will see for many many years.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

An interesting and complex biography

The genius of this book is that it tells this great entertainer's story against a parallel back drop of racism in America and the civil rights movement, thus allowing the listener to appreciate the justification behind the great entertainer's actions and the true scope of his accomplishments. It is a little slow to start, in fact the first hour or so revolves around the events that led to Davis' first autobiography. however, once it gets going it is a complex and captivating tale of the real Sammy, flaws and all, and the impact he had on Black entertainment.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

What a story

Long on facts, the story of a poor black boy who used his talent to support his father; a complex man who always wanted to be someone or something else. The author captures history and biography and makes a compelling tale. Would have given it 5 stars, but it did get a bit rambling in places. Found it very worthwhile and haunting.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Bio!

Would you listen to In Black and White again? Why?

Yes because Sammy's career was so long and storied.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Sammy of course!

Which scene was your favorite?

hard to say

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Greatest Entertainer of All Time.

Any additional comments?

5 Stars***** Whew ~ 23 hours of Sammy!! Really interesting and thorough look at an enormously talented and kindhearted, but ultimately sad man, who was always searching for the childhood love and security he never had. The author missed nothing ~ its all here starting with Sammy's Cuban grandmother and ending on his deathbed. If you are a fan, you'll be a bigger fan, if you aren't, I think you'll still find this a fascinating story of a young boy who's talent supported his father and "uncle" in the segregated depression era, his lust for white women (as many as possible!) at a time where that could get you killed and his inability to connect with his own race - it really baffled him. Segregation, civil rights movement, Rat Pat, Broadway, movies, Nixon, drugs, huge money problems, this has everything including his strange and sad hero worship of Sinatra.
I'm a big fan of this amazing entertainer and sorely regret that I'll never get to see him perform live. In Black and White gave me a complete picture of Sammy and shed more light on the good and bad of what I already knew and a whole lot I didn't know. Two Big thumbs up.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Starts slowly but really gains momentum

I enjoyed the Sinatra led rat pack but I'm not old enough to remember them in their heyday. So I thought I'd give a flyer on this audible book and I'm glad I did.

Overall I really enjoyed this story a great deal, and after hearing this story I thought the title was absolutely brilliant.

The narrator was not my favorite, and the few times I had company in my car my guests said the same thing. I've heard better.

I found the beginning of the story a little odd, and in fact a little slow, but once the book got moving I had a hard time putting it away. I thought the author improved throughout the story, but where I thought Wil Haygood really shined was how well he described what was going on in the country at the time. How he would drop in anecdotes of interesting people that may not have anything to do with the story but helped to round out the biography.

Lets face it Sammy was a celebrity who probably had access to all kinds of illegal pursuits and probably did some things, but Haygood never dwelled on that aspect of his life and I respect Haygood for that choice. Obviously, I knew how the story was going to end, but hearing it still made me sad which I believe was good writing and story telling.

Sammy Davis Jr. was arguably the greatest entertainer this country ever produced. All Sammy wanted was love. He gave it to those who entered his life, he even gave it to complete strangers, and it's sad that the one person he wanted it from was incapable of offering any in return.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Sammy Davis jr well worth remembering

As time fades so do memories but the life of Sammy Davis Jr ie worth recalling and this is the most honest and complete bio of him. Davis was both ahead of his times and an important cultural transitional figure. He was the first “negro” to break unto mainstream American show biz. And as the black revolution gained steam he was a figure of enormous importance and great controversies. This book has been out for a while but it meets the test of time. This story is told with intelligence but also with heart. As Davis might say yes he could and that is worth a listen.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Sammy & History

Would you listen to In Black and White again? Why?

Yes, because I enjoyed the history lesson along with learning about Sammy Davis Jr.

What did you like best about this story?

The way his life story was told against the struggles of race and history.

Have you listened to any of Kevin Free’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No I have not.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, it was very hard to get through the beginning about the couple the Boyle's, I actually had to skip through quite a bit, because I thought it was too much info. I do realize I might have missed a very important point, but it went on way too long.

Any additional comments?

I thought the book was very cleverly written with the exception of the beginning. It has made me appreciate his celebrity more and looking forward to listening to some of his music. I thoroughly enjoyed learning so much about his struggles and his successes.