The dancer who taught Michael Jackson to moonwalk in a rare film appearance! Tap dance pioneer Bill Bailey performs on the Harlem Variety Review in the early 1950’s and demonstrates the move he called, The Backslide,” later renamed “The Moonwalk,” by Michael Jackson.
This clip is from the Internet Archive copy of the December 14, 1952 episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour
A Life-Long Performer
Sammy Davis, Jr. was born in 1925. In 1929, at just 4-years-old and at the start of the Great Depression, he began his life-long career in entertainment and media. At three he went on tour with is father, who had gained custody after separating from Sammy’s mother, Elvera “Baby” Sanchez. There, he was tutored by his father, Sammy Davis, Sr. and Will Mastin, his adopted “Uncle.” The three of them developed a trio act, and Sammy’s song and dance ability and charm helped make them a hit.
Small in stature, but endowed with immeasurable charisma and energy, Davis’ talent was noticed. In 1933 he made his first motion picture appearance in Rufus Jones for President.
At 18, Davis was drafted into the army. Here, for the first time, he encountered prejudice directly. Although not noted for his civil rights activism, Davis was a leader by example. He gave young black entertainers a model for success and he used his position in the industry to pressure for changes. He refused to work at venues that practiced racial segregation and his pressure helped integrate clubs in both Miami and Las Vegas.
He sought to charm and win over those he called, “haters” but was determined to live his life his own way. n 1960, Davis married Swedish-born May Britt at a time when interracial marriages where still illegal in 31 states in the US.
Davis achieved success on stage, in films, on radio and television and as an author. He sang, danced, acted, told jokes, did impressions and charmed his way into America’s entertainment legacy. In this clip, from 1954, Davis performs to one of his biggest hits, “Birth of the Blues,” on the Colgate Comedy Hour.
A rare classic TV appearance of Count Basie with a small 6-piece band in 1955 on the Harlem Variety Review. Basie and his group perform two short pieces.
While performing with his father’s act, “Borscht Capades” at the Roosevelt Theatre in Florida, actor, singer, comedian Joel Grey was first noticed by Eddie Cantor. Cantor invited Grey, 19 years old, to perform with him on The Colgate Comedy Hour as a new upcoming talent. Grey appeared on April 1, 1951, his first classic television appearance.