Published: June 25, 2020

#AudMemories: Sammy Davis Jr. in "Golden Boy"

Earlier this week, The New York Times co-chief theatre critic Ben Brantley shared a number of reader responses to his essay on great performances. We were excited to see one reader recall a special moment at the Auditorium Theatre:

“I was a little nine years old Black girl from Chicago when my mother and I dressed in our Sunday best went to the Auditorium Theater to see Sammy Davis Jr. in Golden Boy. I had never been to the theater and to say I was mesmerized would be an understatement.”

Apparently, Sammy Davis Jr. had been battling a sore throat ahead of the performance and appeared on stage beforehand to apologize. “His voice seemed fine,” the reader, Greer, wrote. “From that day forward, I was in love with the theater.”

An ad for Sammy Davis Jr. in "Golden Boy"

Davis appeared in Golden Boy at the Auditorium for nearly a month. He portrayed Joe Wellington, a young man from Harlem who takes up prizefighting and ends up falling in love with his manager’s girlfriend, Lorna, a white woman. Previews were expected to begin on April 16 and 17, but were postponed in tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., following his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Davis appeared at the Auditorium Theatre again on June 27, 1971.

Ad for Sammy Davis Jr. at the Auditorium Theatre

Check out some incredible photos from the Chicago Sun-Times of Davis in rehearsal for Golden Boy at the Auditorium Theatre on the Chicago History Museum’s website here.