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Sammy Davis, Jr.

Al Hirschfeld, 21 Jun 1903 - 21 Jan 2003
Sammy Davis, Jr., 8 Dec 1925 - 16 May 1990
Paula Wayne, born 1937
Ink and graphite on illustration board
Sheet (Verified): 54.2 × 35.1 cm (21 5/16 × 13 13/16")
Image: 45 × 25 cm (17 11/16 × 9 13/16")
Mat (Verified): 71.1 × 55.9 cm (28 × 22")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© Al Hirschfeld
Object number
Exhibition Label
With superbly controlled exaggeration, Al Hirschfeld depicts the versatile singer, dancer, and actor Sammy Davis Jr. as a struggling boxer in Golden Boy, a 1964 musical adaptation of the 1930s play by Clifford Odets. Set against a sharp-edged, geometric cityscape, the figures of Davis and co-star Paula Wayne come to life with a supple grace and elegance. Davis's performance in Golden Boy, which featured one of the first fully integrated casts on Broadway, earned him a Tony Award nomination. The adaptation changed the main character from a Jewish to an African American fighter. "The swift, keen-edged lines about the Negro condition," Howard Taubman wrote of the musical in his review for the New York Times, "have bite and integrity." The same characteristics could be applied to Hirschfeld's incisive portrayal.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection