Kim Novak revealed that in her upcoming documentary, Kim Novak: The Golden Age Rebel, she opens up about a lot of misconstrued facts that have been reported about her throughout her life, including her allegedly brief affair with jazz icon, Sammy Davis Jr.
She talked with People in February about what will be featured in the documentary.
“I told them a lot of revealing things,” she admitted. “I was very open. I told them about my life in Hollywood, I also told them about the real story of Sammy and me. That was often misunderstood. I just wanted to be totally open about everything that had been more secretive in the past. While you’re still alive, to be able to be questioned and answer truthfully, to clear up all kinds of mistaken views and all, it’s catharsis.”
Kim and Sammy met sometime in 1957. In a 2013 Vanity Fair piece about her and Sammy’s allegedly forbidden love affair, actor Tony Curtis claimed he set them up by inviting them both to a party at his house, knowing that Sammy was interested in Kim.
However, in 2021, Kim cleared the air when talking with The Hollywood Reporter, by revealing their true meeting was when Sammy invited her to a photoshoot.
“I was making Vertigo,” she remembered, “and [Sammy] called up my manager and said, ‘I’d like to do a photo session with her.’ I guess he did photography on the side. They checked and I said, ‘OK.’”
“So he’s shooting,” she continued, “and I said, ‘Did you ever think of taking off the lens cover?’ He had the lens cover on the whole time. I don’t know if he was totally in love, but he certainly had a crush on me.”
“But I was in love with Dick Quine,” she admitted, who she would eventually be engaged to, but never married.
Kim continues her and Sammy’s story, saying that he called her up shortly after and invited her to his family’s home for Thanksgiving, to which she attended. Afterwards, she invited him to her family’s home in Chicago for Christmas, and he gladly showed up and brought presents for everyone.
At the time, segregation was very much legal and interracial marriage was heavily frowned upon. So when co-founder of Columbia Pictures Harry Cohn found out about the relationship that was building between the acclaimed actress and musician, he shut it down quickly.
“Harry Cohn said, ‘You’re not to see this person again,’” she shared. “When someone says something that definitely, it makes me want to do exactly what they don’t want me to do.”
However, Kim denies that her and Sammy’s relationship was ever romantic, despite the repeated report that has been present throughout her life.
“I knew [Sammy] had this crush, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings,” she continued. “That’s when I, for his sake, thought, ‘I’d better not see him.’”
Reportedly, Cohn had ties with the mob, and used that power to threaten Sammy by sending out a contract on Davis Jr. saying he’d “break both his legs and to put out his other eye,” according to Cohn’s friend, Arthur Silber Jr.
Supposedly, American gangster Mickey Cohen was the one to warn Sammy’s father of the threat, telling him, “Listen. I got some terrible news for you. I just got a call from Chicago to hurt Sammy. I tell you what, there’s one chance. I’ll give him 24 hours. Sammy has to get married—to a colored girl.”
And so he did. Sammy married friend Loray White in 1958.
According to Silber, “[Sammy] sat [Loray] down—he was sitting in a chair and I was sitting on the bed—and he made her a proposition, to marry him for a certain sum of money. She would have all the rights that Mrs. Sammy Davis Jr. would have, but at the end of the year they would dissolve the marriage. She agreed to that, and that’s what took the heat off.”
Sure enough, they divorced a year later.
Novak said of the time, per Vanity Fair, “It was a very dangerous relationship then—a white woman and a Black man, no matter his status—it simply didn’t mix publicly. I was suddenly in the eye of a hurricane … My agent told me my career would be over if I continued to see Sammy. Some of my friends wouldn’t even return my telephone calls.”
Both Kim and Sammy would marry other people after their time together, both marrying twice. Sammy found a long lasting love in Altovise Gore, whom he married in 1970 and stayed married for twenty years until his death in 1990. Kim married actor Robert Malloy in 1976 and they stayed together until 2020 when he passed away.
So what pulled Kim and Sammy apart? The same thing that’s divided this country for its entire existence: the lack of acceptance of another based on the color of their skin. Who knows what could’ve been if they met at a different time. But at least they both found love eventually, and stayed close throughout each other’s lives.