Director Leo Penn spent most of his career directing successful popular television series such as Dr Kildare, Bonanza and Columbo. His little seen feature film A Man Called Adam features a star studded cast of African-American musical and acting talent including Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr and Ossie Davis - it is also the debut feature for Lola Falana and the late Cicely Tyson.
Sammy Davis Jr plays a respected but volatile jazz trumpeter on a downward spiral sparked by racism and personal tragedy. A relationship with a civil rights activist seems to lift him out of his doldrums, but the recovery is temporary. Adam Johnson, the mercurial trumpet player at the heart of this sharp-edged character study may be fictional, but Sammy Davis Jr brings him to indelible life. The verisimilitude springs in part because cowriters Les and Tina Pine used Miles Davis as a model for the troubled musician. Life would also imitate art, in a manner of speaking, when Miles wed Davis Jr’s co-star, Cicely Tyson, in 1981.
_A Man Called Adam _speaks to today as much as the civil rights era in the way it depicts the perspective of Black musicians who played in integrated bands to integrated audiences, navigating a world that accepted them as entertainers but not as human beings.