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 from 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 to the civil rights era in the way it depicts from the perspective of the Black musicians who played in integrated bands to integrated audiences while navigating a world that accepted them as entertainers but not as human beings.
Presented in partnership with Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival.