Lady Sings the Blues (film): Wikis

  
  

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Lady Sings The Blues

The movie poster for the film Lady Sings The Blues
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Produced by Brad Dexter
Jay Weston
James S. White
Written by Chris Clark
Suzanne de Passe
William Dufty
Billie Holiday
Terence McCloy
Starring Diana Ross
Billy Dee Williams
Richard Pryor
Music by Gil Askey
Michel Legrand
Cinematography John A. Alonzo
Studio Motown Productions
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) October 12, 1972
Running time 141 min.
Language English
Budget $14 million
Gross revenue $19,726,490

Lady Sings The Blues is a 1972 film about jazz singer Billie Holiday loosely based on her 1956 autobiography which, in turn, took its title from one of Holiday's most popular songs. It was produced by Motown Productions for Paramount Pictures. Diana Ross portrayed Holiday, alongside a cast including Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan and Scatman Crothers.

The movie was adapted by Chris Clark, Suzanne de Passe and Terence McCloy from the book by William Dufty and Billie Holiday. It was directed by Sidney J. Furie.

It was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning none. [1] The nominations were for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Diana Ross), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Carl Anderson, Reg Allen), Best Costume Design, Best Music, Original Song Score and Adaptation (Gil Askey) and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced.[2] The film was also screened at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, but wasn't entered into the main competition.[3]

The same year, Motown released a successful soundtrack double-album of Ross' recordings of Billie Holiday songs from the film, also titled Lady Sings the Blues. The album became one of the Number-one albums of 1973 (U.S.) in the Billboard Hot 200 Album Charts,[4] in the weeks of April 7 and 14, 1973.

Contents

Plot

The film opens in 1936, New York City, where Billie Holiday (Diana Ross) is being placed under arrest at the NYPD police station. She is finger-printed, put into a straight jacket and is locked up in a jail cell. The film then flashes back to 1928, where a woman calls Billie by her actual name, "Eleanora". During these events, Billie has an encounter with a rapist (Harry Caesar), until a madame (Isabel Sanford) witnesses this and throws him out onto the streets. Billie then skips home to her Aunt Ida's (Lynn Hamilton) house, with Ida and her children, demanding that Billie clean up the house. After Aunt Ida and her children leave, Billie (who accidentally leaves the door open), puts on a record, and looks at herself in the mirror, only to find the rapist has followed her home. Billie, who tries to retaliate, goes to her room, and tries to leave, until the rapist comes, throws her on her bed, covers her face, and rapes her.

Followed by the incident, Billie's mother, Mama Holiday (Virginia Capers), who is working as a housekeeper for a wealthy family, is seen speaking to a butler (Jester Hairston), with whom she is best friends. Billie is then escorted to the house with a police officer, and then cries out that she came all the way to see her. Mama Holiday feeds Billie, and set up a job to clean at a brothel in the Harlem section of New York City. The brothel itself is run by an arrogant, selfish owner named Ms. Edson (Paulene Myers), who gives Billie a very small paycheck ($4 an hour).

One night, Billie sneaks into a nightclub/bar with black showgirls, owned by Reg Hanley (James T. Callahan). Reg tries to get rid of Billie, who claims that she knows every single song out to date. She sees Louis McKay (Billy Dee Williams), he smiles at her, then a guard comes, picks Billie up and kicks her out of the nightclub.

One day, when Billie is all alone in her room, Ms. Edson sends up a well-known "customer", nicknamed "Big Ben" (Scatman Crothers), who tries to get Billie in bed with him. Billie, who is dressed in all-yellow dress with a 1920s-style hat, leaves as she states "Sorry. I've just quit the business". Billie is then fired on her way out the door.

Billie heads across the street, to the club she was once kicked out of, and auditions with the showgirls. Reg tells her to leave when she does not quite catch up with the girls' dancing moves. Billie then speaks to a man, who becomes her best friend; Piano Man (Richard Pryor), who plays the song "All of Me". Reg then witnesses her talent for singing, and books her for a show, beginning Billie's career as a singer.

The film continues on with Billie's debut at the nightclub, as she (nervously) sings a slow jazz ballad (to which, the audience, predominately, African American does not find entertaining and boos her.) Louis, who surprisingly arrives at Billie's debut, takes his hand out with $50 dollar bill, as he romantically (and sarcastically) replies, "Do you want my arm to fall off?". Billie, then takes the dollar, and sings "Them There Eyes". Louis mysteriously disappears during Billie's set.

After the show ends, Billie receives a bigger paycheck, and flowers given by Reg Hanley, but sent from Louis to Billie. Louis, however, asks her out on a date to a fancy restaurant, which Billie rejects, but they do go out on a date. Billie starts to take a liking to Louis, and begins a secret life: becoming a heroin addict. Eventually, she is discovered by two men: Harry (Paul Hampton) and Jerry (Sid Melton), who sign her to Decca Records.

Towards the end of the 1930s, onto the early 1940s, Holiday becomes a world-renowned jazz singer and big-time celebrity. At the height of her success, Billie experiences an overwhelming, and fateful moment, when she is in the South. She runs on top of a hill for some fresh air, witnesses the lynching of an African-American man, which presses her to record one of the most controversial songs in history ("Strange Fruit"). The movie ends with a montage of scenes, which included a headline tour with Billie singing a few lyrics to "You're Mean to Me", only to faint in front of a live audience of a thousand.

Cast

References

External links








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