By all accounts Francis Davis is an icon herself, and more than just Miles Davis’ ex-wife. From being a successful Broadway star, to a part of Katherine Dunham’s dance troupe, there’s no wondering why Francis’ marriage to Davis will be a part of Don Cheadle’s directorial debut, in which he stars as Miles Davis. Zoe Saldana will play Francis Davis.
Francis Davis was born in Chicago and started studying ballet at the age of 8 and by the time she was 10, she was en pointe. She was a prima ballerina by 16 years-old and already traveling the world with her father. Davis was also the first black woman to join the Paris Opera Ballet and appeared in the original “West Side Story”, as well as “Mr. Wonderful,” “Porgy & Bess”, and “Shinbone Alley”.
In an interview with Sante Fe, Francis recalls the first time she met Miles Davis:
One evening one of the visitors was drummer Max Roach who had in tow Miles Davis. “Miles flipped for me right away,” she recalled. Davis was unimpressed with him and it would be several years before she saw him again. Appearing in “Mr. Wonderful,” she was walking down Broadway when she met him again. This time he said to her , “Now that I found you, I’ll never let you go.”
There is the life-changing statement, the moment when the beautiful and talented woman Miles Davis flipped for fell for him. She moved in with him and they married. It wasn’t long before he went to her Broadway producer and told him his wife would not be working anymore. Her profession required her to be on the road but her husband was not having it. “I want you out of ‘West Side Story,’ a woman should be with her man,” he told her during Lena Horne’s performance at the Copa. She subsequently left the Broadway Stage.
Why, at the top of an obviously glowing and growing career, would you just walk away? Davis’ answer is one many woman can relate to: “But I was in love with him.”
Kill the Trumpet Player will center around a few days in the life of Miles Davis as he bursts out of his silent period and conspires with a Rolling Stone writer (Ewan McGregor) to steal back his music.