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Sammy Davis Jr Attacked Wife the Day They Forcibly Wed Due to Interracial Affair with Kim Novak

Oyin Balogun
Oct 10, 2021
11:20 A.M.
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Sammy Davis and Kim Novak had a love story that never came to be, as the star-crossed lovers were forced apart by racial biases. The end of their forbidden love spelled the onset of the icon's troubled existence.

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Legendary singer Sammy Davis had it all; money, fame, talent. However, he lacked the one thing he truly craved — the freedom to marry his love interest, Kim Novak.

Soaring through Hollywood's romantic boat under the watchful eyes of Harry Cohn proved a tough nut to crack, ultimately exposing a side of Davis no one knew existed.

Picture of Sammy Davis Jr, Loray White and Kim Novak | Photo: Getty Images

Picture of Sammy Davis Jr, Loray White and Kim Novak | Photo: Getty Images

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At the receiving end of that dreaded version triggered by Cohn, his mob, and Novak was Loray White, who never should have been a part of the love crisis in the first place.

A FORBIDDEN LOVE

In the late '50s, which represents the peak of the civil rights struggle, inter-racial marriages were a luxury many could not afford, as it came at a hefty price.

For Sammy Davis, the renowned "greatest entertainer in the world," the prize was more gruesome than he anticipated before giving his heart to the beautiful blonde actress, Kim Novak.

Actor Sammy Davis Jr. poses for a portrait in 1988 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Actor Sammy Davis Jr. poses for a portrait in 1988 in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Driven by their affection for each other, the duo overlooked the ongoing racial divide and kicked off a blissful relationship in 1957. As much as they made their romance thrive, Cohn, the president of Columbia Pictures to which Novak was signed, would not have it.

Following their initial encounter, the twosome strived to keep their relationship away from the media and Cohn's affiliates, enjoying intimate dinner dates in the quiet of their homes and exchanging secret messages.

Cohn soon learned of the secret love affair while attending a memorial dinner in New York. The discovery left him so furious he had a mild heart attack hours later.

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Kim Novak photographed by Baron, 1954.| Source: Getty Images

Kim Novak photographed by Baron, 1954.| Source: Getty Images

THE HEAT OF THE AFFAIR

Novak and Davis kept their relationship afloat in what was best described as an open secret in the months that followed. They endured the negative remarks and jeering received from their peers, colleagues, and the press in exchange for their sanity.

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Finally, rumors of their planned wedding hit the media, threatening to topple the race barrier. A clerk in Aurora reportedly discovered a filled-out application for a marriage license which was yet to be filled.

The rumors reached Cohn, leaving him outraged by the thought of his specially groomed movie star getting married to a black man. To him, it spelled doom for Novak's career, and ultimately, Columbus Studio's big investment.

Portrait of African American entertainer Sammy Davis Junior, 1970.| Source: Getty Images

Portrait of African American entertainer Sammy Davis Junior, 1970.| Source: Getty Images

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THE PLOT TWIST

Several theories about how the events played out thereon have surfaced over time, but the common denomination in all of them was that Davis was threatened out of his relationship with Novak by an organized group of mobsters affiliated with Mickey Cohen.

A report by Vanity Fair suggests the Westcoast gangster, Mickey Cohen, approached the actor's dad, Sammy Davis Sr., notifying him he got a contract to hurt Davis Jr.

Davis' personal assistant, Arthur Silber, once revealed that Cohn, who had close ties with the mob, put out the contract to hurt Davis.

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American actress Kim Novak kneeling on a tiger skin rug, circa 1955. | Source: Getty Images

American actress Kim Novak kneeling on a tiger skin rug, circa 1955. | Source: Getty Images

However, he gave specific orders not to kill the singing icon, who lost his left eye in a car accident years prior, but to break his two legs or blind his second eye.

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Cohen offered Davis a lifeline, however, giving him two days to marry a woman of color. The "One Life to Live" star took the lifeline.

Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. at anti-defamation rally in Madison Square Garden, New York City, circa 1960s. | Photo: Getty Images

Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. at anti-defamation rally in Madison Square Garden, New York City, circa 1960s. | Photo: Getty Images

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TAKING A BRIDE

After being threatened, Davis sought protection from Chicago Mobster Sam Giancana, who could not guarantee his all-around safety outside Chicago and Las Vegas. Left with no choice, he began his hunt for a bride by searching through his phone book.

Within hours, he found dancer Loray White, whom he once dated. The two arranged a contract to tie the knot hastily and end the marriage before the year ran out.

He offered her a huge sum of money to comply with his terms, and they went through with the marriage. But things soon turned sour.

American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. (1925 - 1990) meets his future wife, Swedish actress May Britt, on her arrival at London Airport from Hollywood, 4th June 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

American entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. (1925 - 1990) meets his future wife, Swedish actress May Britt, on her arrival at London Airport from Hollywood, 4th June 1960. | Photo: Getty Images

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Throughout the ceremony, Davis kept drinking to cope with his emotional torture. While driving to their wedding suite after the nuptials, a visibly drunk Davis turned on his new bride and attempted to strangle her.

Thankfully, Silber stopped him just in time. Silber would also be the savior that wrestled a gun out of Davis' hands hours later, preventing him from taking his own life.

Ultimately, the "I've Gotta Be Me" crooner and Loray never lived together, nor did their marriage work out. Their union ended after a year, as stipulated in the agreement.

American singer, actor and dancer Sammy Davis Jr. (1925 - 1990), circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

American singer, actor and dancer Sammy Davis Jr. (1925 - 1990), circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

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Though short-lived, Loray and Davis' marriage and his love entanglement with Novak served as a stepping stone for interracial marriages.

LOVE REMAINED IN THE PICTURE

Following his marriage to Loray, Novak and Davis' episode seemingly ended. The "Vertigo" actress admitted they remained good friends but had to avoid each other forever in line with Cohn's decree. They stayed through to their decision.

In 1960, barely a year after divorcing his first wife, Davis tied the knot with Swedish-born actress May-Britt, who was white.

American singer, actor and comedian Sammy Davis Jr (1925-1990) pictured holding a Pug dog with his wife, Swedish actress May Britt in England in 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

American singer, actor and comedian Sammy Davis Jr (1925-1990) pictured holding a Pug dog with his wife, Swedish actress May Britt in England in 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

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Although their union generated racially charged controversies, it never resulted in violence. The duo had a biological daughter, Tracey Davis, and two adopted sons before their divorce in 1968.

Shortly after, he began dating dancer Altovise Gore and married her in 1970, after two years together. The duo shared an adopted son, Manny, and stayed married until the singer's death in May 1990.

Sammy Davis Jr and her husband May Britt, circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

Sammy Davis Jr and her husband May Britt, circa 1960 | Photo: Getty Images

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DAVIS' FINAL YEARS

Davis spent the last years of his life living with his third wife, Altovise, in their Beverly Hills mansion. In 1989, the actor began experiencing a tickling sensation in his throat, eventually losing his ability to taste.

Doctors diagnosed him with throat cancer after discovering a cancerous lump in his throat. He spent the remaining months battling the condition, initially undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy in lieu of surgery.

As his condition worsened, the legend was forced to undergo surgery to remove his larynx. He died two months later, in his home, at the age of 64.

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