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Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

R  |   |  Biography, Drama, Music  |  12 October 1972 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,615 users  
Reviews: 42 user | 21 critic

The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.



(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Suzanne de Passe) , 3 more credits »
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Title: Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Louis McKay
Piano Man
Reg Hanley (as James Callahan)
Paul Hampton ...
Virginia Capers ...
Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair ...
The Madame
Tracee Lyles ...
The Prostitute
The Agent
Milton Selzer ...
The Doctor
The Detective #1
Clay Tanner ...
The Detective #2
Jester Hairston ...
The Butler


Born Elinore Harris, Billie Holiday had a difficult teen and young adulthood period, which included working in brothels, both as a cleaning woman and a prostitute, and being raped. Through this difficulty, she dreamed of becoming a jazz singer. She got her initial singing break when she applied at a Harlem club that was looking for a dancer, but where she got hired as a singer. There, she met and fell in love with the suave Louis McKay. After this initial break, Billie wanted her singing career to move to the mainstream clubs in downtown Manhattan. She took a risk when she agreed to be the lead singer for the Reg Hanley Band, a primarily white group, who convinced her that she would have to make her mark in regional tours before her Manhattan dream could happen. As Billie tried to advance her career, pressures of life, including being a black woman, led to her not so secret substance abuse (especially of heroin), not so secret because of her increasingly erratic behavior, both on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

singer | singing | heroin | jazz | brothel | See All (64) »


Diana Ross is Billie Holiday. Diana Ross sings Billie Holiday and a superstar is born. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El ocaso de una estrella  »

Box Office


$9,600,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When the film was first suggested in the late 60s Abbey Lincoln was the initial casting for the role of Billie Holiday with Diana Sands as second choice. The project was revived a few years later with Diahann Carroll as a suggested lead but after discussions between Jay Weston and director Sidney J. Furie the role was offered to Diana Ross. See more »


The Rapist: I see what I want.
[motioning to Billie]
The Rapist: And this is it.
First Madame: Well, you can't always get what you see.
[Pulling him to the door]
First Madame: And since you don't want what you CAN get, you know where you can go. And this is it!
See more »


References There Goes My Girl (1937) See more »


Written by Michel Legrand and Smokey Robinson
Sung by Michael Jackson
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Ross plays herself as the book is butchered!
7 April 2001 | by (Atlanta, GA) – See all my reviews

Stay away from this piece of garbage! The book, co-authored by Holiday and William Duffy(1956), was one of the most honest, brutal and human autobiographies ever written. Ross' depiction of Holiday is horrendously erroneous on every level. She doesn't look, sound or act like her. This movie is only for Ross fans. Billie Holiday fans will learn just as much about her by watching old reruns of The Jetsons. I'm Johnny Roulette and this movie was absolutely horrible!

5 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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