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Man Claims Rights to Sammy Davis’ Story

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A man claims he owns the rights to Sammy Davis Jr.'s life story and wants $35 million from a studio that's planning a film about the late entertainer, in a pro se complaint in Superior Court.

Rick Appling sued Entertainment Studios and its founder Byron Allen, alleging tortious interference.

Appling claims he struck a three-year deal with Davis's daughter, Tracy Davis, in early 2011, and that Allen announced his plans to bring Davis's life story to the stage and screen late that year.

Appling claims that co-producers (nonparties) Invasion TV and Ampersand Media helped him develop the project, and that they were talking with Leonard DiCaprio's company, Appian Way, about a movie.

"On or about December 8, 2011, plaintiff received information from various sources, including co-production partners, Ampersand Media and Invasion TV that defendant Allen had issued a press release announcing that his company defendant Entertainment Studios Inc. had acquired the life rights of the late Sammy Davis Jr. from defendant Tracy Davis," the complaint states.

Tracy Davis is not named as a defendant in the heading of the pro se complaint, but is named as a defendant in the body of the complaint.

Appling claims his co-producers got cold feet after they learned of Allen's plans to make the film, and told him that any dispute could be a "'deal killer.'"

"(D)ue to defendant Allen's press release announcing that he and defendant Entertainment Studios Inc. had acquired the rights to the Sammy Davis, Jr. story, plaintiff's rights and chain of title to the life story of Sammy Davis Jr. is now in question, and further to this causes a severe delay in the time frame in which plaintiff is to perform pursuant to plaintiff's agreement with Tracy Davis," the complaint states.

Appling was a producer of "Vegas Vampires" and "Deadly Rhapsody," according to the industry website imdb.com.

Davis, a multitalented musician, actor and dancer and member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, died at 64 in Beverly Hills on May 16, 1990, of throat cancer. His autobiography, "Yes, I Can," was a bestseller.

Appling seeks damages for tortious interference with contract, tortious interference with prospective contractual relations, and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage. His complaint includes 24 pages of exhibits.

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