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Lady Sings the Blues
Lady Sings the Blues
Actors: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, Paul Hampton
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts
R     2005     2hr 24min

The essence of Billie Holiday, one of America's most loved and memorable blues singers, is captured brilliantly in a tour-de-force debut performance by singer Diana Ross. Filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, Paul Hampton
Director: Sidney J. Furie
Creators: Berry Gordy, Brad Dexter, Billie Holiday, Chris Clark, Suzanne De Passe, Terence McCloy, William Dufty
Genres: Drama, Music Video & Concerts
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, Holiday, Billie
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/08/2005
Original Release Date: 10/12/1972
Theatrical Release Date: 10/12/1972
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 24min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Collector's Edition,Special Edition
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 1/27/2020...
Nominated for 5 Academy Awards! Many actors and actresses that I knew in this but I became bored by the initial plotline and hit the 120X FF thereafter. It may be your cup of tea but it was not mine...

Movie Reviews

"Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose..."
Mary Whipple | New England | 09/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The most influential, creative, and emotional blues singer from the 1930s to the early 1950s, Billie Holiday may have attracted a whole new generation of fans through this 1972 film biography. Though the film is not historically accurate about her life and her relationship with Louis McKay (played by Billie Dee Williams), it is effective in demonstrating the traumas of her early life, the color bar which prevented her from singing in many whites-only venues, her drug and alcohol addictions (which eventually led to her death at age forty-four of liver and heart disease), and the events which led to many of her most famous songs.

Diana Ross, as Billie, is passionate and driven, and her portrayal of Billie in the midst of drug withdrawal is heart-rending and effective. Playing the role "full out," Ross deals with the script she has been given, and she richly deserves her Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Female Newcomer in this screen debut. A consortium of scriptwriters, which drew on the frank, but partly fictionalized, autobiography Billie wrote with William Dufty in 1956, has omitted or changed many aspects of her life in order to make the film more unified and dramatic, creating a film that creates even more myths about Billie.

Billy Dee Williams is terrific as Louis McKay, appearing slick and smooth at the beginning, but showing subtle changes of feeling as he is drawn into Billie's orbit and provides some stability for her. The accompanist (Richard Pryor) seems genuinely to care for her, as, it seems, does Reg Hanley (James T. Callahan), though the reasons Harry Bradford (Paul Hampton) has for getting her hooked on drugs is not clear. Ross is surprisingly good when she sings Billie's songs, copying her phrasing and creating a sound that somewhat resembles hers, though Billie's gutsy heart is missing.

Nominated for Best Actress (Diana Ross), Set Decoration and Art Direction, Costumes (Bob Mackie), Best Music/Scoring, and Best Story and Screenplay, this is a dramatic and showy film about a singing legend's tragic life, but it is more entertainment than biography, especially in its emphasis on the Reg Hanley band. Though one would not know this from the film, Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie also played important roles in Billie's career. Mary Whipple
R. Rodriguez | Maui Hawaii | 08/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"In her first feature film Diana Ross delivers a tour de force performance as Billie Holiday not only capturing the Holiday persona but delivering mightly on the Holiday sound. The soundtrack did shoot straight to #1. From a child in pig tails playing hopscotch to her satin gowned debut at carnegie hall Ross delivers a flawless performance worthy of an oscar and indeed was nominated for one.The chemistry between Ross and Billy Dee Williams ( Lando of the Star wars saga ) smolders on screen,the way they play off each other is touching. Ross`s reaction upon first seeing Billy Dee Williams is shear brilliance for they have never looked finer on film. Richard Pryor as Piano Man adds a spark of humor as only he can Other notable performances include Isabell Sanford (of the Jeffersons)as the Madam and Scatman Crothers (One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest, The Shining) as Big Ben. The exchange between these two in a brothel is classic, the sense of delivery, the timing, its hard not to think of Ross as a seasoned pro. She holds her own and delivers a touching portrayal, she makes you believe she is Billie Hoilday. And then there is the singing. Ross takes on the Holiday catalog with a hunger unsurpassed, her renditions of Good Morning Heartache, God Bless The Child, Strange Fruit and others rival that of Holiday herself. To think that a singer with no acting experince, sans a few television spots from the Motown stable had it in her to tackle the heavy handed material in this movie makes this film even more of a must see."
Soul Diva Sings The Blues | BOLTON, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND | 11/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Soul music legend Diana Ross broke down many racial barriers, opening doors for many black entertainers. Lady Sings The Blues is a prime example of her remarkable acheivements. Diana Ross wasn't, to be fair, the most ideal Billie Holiday but she was certainly perfect for this vehicle. Lady Sings The Blues is loosley drawn from Holidays autobiography of the same name though many incidents are fictionalised and re-worked for dramatic clarity. Die-hard Holiday fans were up in arms for the films often fictionalised account but they all rightly joined in to praise Diana Ross' remarkable and truly dynamic silver screen debut. Incredibly Diana had never before taken an acting lesson in her life and her only acting credit before this was a guest apperance in the U.S T.V series, Tarzan, playing a singing nun. She certainly didn't garner any such recognised praise for that role and critics doubted almost immediatley that she could truly carry out this challenging role. However once the film was released critics were silenced and astounded by Diana's masterful playing.
The film follows Billie as a teenager where she worked as a prostitute in a brothel run by her mothers friend and chronicles her rise and fall of the days greatest Jazz/Blues singer. It largely focuses on her complex relationship with her husband Louis Mckay, which is played superbly by Billy Dee Williams and details her horrific, physical decline into heroin addiction. There is also a fantastic supporting turn from Richard Pryor as the Piano Man who really bites into his part and makes the most of every scene he is in. But the ultimate fact here is that Diana Ross is the star and she is just incredible. Watching her play those harrowing scenes as Billie goes through cold turkey from her heavy heroin addiction makes you appreciate her deep, raw talent. Her acting is purley instinctive and as one critic of the day accuratley pointed out that where ever the eyes of the film makers may have been, the heart of its star is in the right place! She doesn't once try and emulate Holidays vocal style, instead making the songs surprisingly her own. She completley escaped and shook off the traditional Motown sound and never does a Supreme type number. What emerges in her vocal performances on the films soundtrack are some of her strongest, most passionate work. Her diction and phrasing is so precise and when you hear her sing such quintessential jazz classics such as Strange Fruit, Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be), Good Morning Heartache, God Bless The Child and the tear-jerking, My Man, you just get goose bumps from her almost stark delivery. What Lady Sings The Blues often draws upon is racial predujice, a fact which Diana could certainly relate to herself where she and most other Motown atists had been subjected to as they began their career's. There are some moving scenes as Billie saw a black man hung from a tree during one of her early tours. It sends shivers down the spine when she sings Strange Fruit which had been based on that horrific occurence Billie had witnessed. Diana projects the unhappy and vulnreable side to Billie which some didn't now about and plays it out with such conviction and gritty realism. The whole thing is also complimented by the thirties ambience such as the nightclubs and drug culture which are superbly and convincingly evoked. Diana certainly deserved her oscar nomination for Best Actress and its a shame she didn't win as it was such a remarkable debut but receiving the oscar nomination in the first place was an acheivement alone and she certainly deserves to be proud of her performance in this film. On the whole a compelling and riveting part-true, part-fictionalised account of Lady Days often traumatic life."