Roy Davis, who popularized the art of lip-synching onstage, died Dec. 20 of emphysema in Winter Park, Fla. He was 91.
Davis was born David Poss, in the Bronx, N.Y. He started out working in a bank, but after winning amateur night competitions, turned his party stunt into a career.
In the 1940s and early 1950s, Davis became well known for his live theater act — mimicking popular songs as they played aloud on records. He frequently played Broadway houses in variety shows during the Big Band era. Critics called it the art of “vocal pantomime.” Davis was labeled a “needle actor” and a “ventriloquist in reverse,” imitating acts such as Frank Sinatra, Rudy Vallee, Shirley Temple and the Andrews Sisters. He performed in the Los Angeles variety show “Blackouts,” featuring Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. He also coached actors learning to lip-sync songs onscreen.
When his performing years were over, Davis worked with Ray Bloch Prods., the primary talent bookers for CBS Television and a marketer of entertainers for corporate events. Davis, a vice president of the firm, frequently produced events with Bob Hope, George Burns, Henny Youngman, Jack Benny and Victor Borge.
Davis’ brother, Stanley, was a producer of the “The Honeymooners” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.”
Davis is survived by his wife, Barbara; a daughter, Monica Piper, a television writer and former standup comedian; and a grandson.