Man Called Adam, A: (1966): Leo Penn’s Grim Drama about Self-Destructive Jazz Musician, Starring Sammy Davis Jr.

Leo Penn directed A Man Called Adam, a drama starring Sammy Davis Jr., Ossie Davis and Cicely Tyson, concerns a self-destructive jazz musician.

The film also features such noted musicians as Louis Armstrong, Mel Tormé and Frank Sinatra Jr

Adam Johnson, a talented African-American jazz cornetist, is plagued by ill health, racism, alcoholism and a short temper, as well as guilt over the deaths of his wife and child.

Even his best friend Nelson, and Vincent, a young Caucasian trumpeter whom Adam mentors, can’t tolerate his temper.

Arriving at his New York home drunk after walking out on his jazz quintet, Adam finds in his flat prominent Civil Rights Movement worker Claudia Ferguson and her grandfather, Willie, a well-known jazz trumpeter. They have been given access by Nelson, but the drunken Adam is rude to both, and makes a vulgar pass at Claudia.

A sober Adam is apologetic and strikes up a new friendship with the men, and a romance with Claudia, a strong femme determined not to let Adam destroy himself.

After a relapse and decline, Adam resurfaces at the club, looking “chewed up and spit out,” as Willie puts it.  Despite his physical condition, Adam accepts the invitation to join the group on stage.

After a good beginning, Adam begins to struggle physically and his playing turns frenetic, causing others to stop playing. Finally, he collapses and dies, leaving his friends to mourn him.

A Man Called Adam features several musical numbers, including Louis Armstrong’s “Back O’ Town Blues,” Mel Tormé performing “All That Jazz” and Sammy Davis, Jr. performing “Whisper To One.”

The film’s trumpet performances by Davis’ Adam were dubbed by Nat Adderley.

Sammy Davis Jr. as Adam Johnson
Ossie Davis as Nelson Davis
Cicely Tyson as Claudia Ferguson
Louis Armstrong as Willie “Sweet Daddy” Ferguson
Frank Sinatra Jr. as Vincent
Peter Lawford as Manny
Johnny Brown as Les
Mel Tormé as Mel
Jeanette DuBois as Martha
Lola Falana as Theo
Michael DeSilva as Ron
George Rhodes as Bassist
Kai Winding as Trombone Player
Morgan Freeman as Party Guest (Uncredited)