Docu on how black & Jewish entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr. navigated the turbulent '60's gets a little help from his friends

Historian Stan Taffel, comedian Tom Dreesen, festival director
 Hilary Helstein, actor Hal Linden, son of Sammy- Manny Davis
The 2018 L.A. Jewish Film Festival opened in Beverly Hills on Wednesday with the PBS' American Masters 
documentary, "I Gotta Be Me" (2017).  The film was produced by Sally Rosenthal, directed by Samuel D. Pollard, and written by Laurence Maslon. Executive producer for American Masters' was Michael Kantor.

A notable list of celebrities appear in the movie - Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, May Britt, Diahann Carroll, Billy Crystal, Sammy Davis Jr., Angie Dickinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Shirley MacLaine, Kim Novak, and Sidney Poitier. 

Manny Davis, Laugh-In producer George Schlatter, and comic
Tom Dreesen share their Sammy stories before theater crowd
Two of Sammy's collaborators featured in the movie also spoke to the audience after the Beverly Hills screening - George Schlatter, the executive producer of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" (who introduced Sammy's "Here Come Da Judge" to America); and live-show co-star, comic Tom Dreesen 



Sammy Davis had comic Tom Dreesen intersperse
 comedy in between shows' singing and dancing
(comedian with 61 Late Night TV appearances, who opened Frank Sinatra's shows for decades) who discussed Sammy's Jackie-Robinson-like role in breaking-through segregated entertainment venues. 



Rounding out the panel were Sammy's youngest son Manny, and film-historian Stan Taffel who led the discussion the guests' experiences with (and knowledge about) Sammy. 


As Sammy Davis surprised Archie Bunker with a kiss while the pair posed
taking a snapshot on "All in the Family" episode Feb 1972, Stan Taffel and
and Manny Davis re-enact that moment in the lobby of Laemmle's Ahrya
Fine Arts Cinema in Beverly Hills. (original pic: CBS Landov/NY Times)
JooTube asked Manny just how Jewish was Sammy and his household? Manny said, "He really was Jewish. He always practiced his faith, he always made sure that he didn't work on Yom Kippur and things like that. Those are things I was able to celebrate with him, as well. He observed the holidays. What people don't know is that his wife was Catholic. So we had a chance to celebrate both of those. We always followed the Jewish traditions and always followed the Catholic traditions.  And I was kind of raised Baptist. But either way, we celebrated everything because everybody was always welcome in our house." Watch the whole interview here:


"I've Gotta Be Me" screens again at 5pm Sunday, 29 April at Laemmle's Town Center Cinema in Encino. Check the schedule for the L.A. Jewish Film Festival for other films' times through Wednesday, May 2nd. A number of them have panel discussions with the filmmakers and casts.

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