7.1/10
3,065
43 user 20 critic

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

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

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Suzanne de Passe) | 3 more credits »
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Mahogany (1975)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Tracy, an aspiring designer from the slums of Chicago puts herself through fashion school in the hopes of becoming one of the world's top designers. Her ambition leads her to Rome spurring ... See full summary »

Directors: Berry Gordy, Tony Richardson, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Perkins
Sparkle (1976)
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A girl group experiences turmoil after one of their members turns to drugs and another achieves their desired fame all by herself.

Director: Sam O'Steen
Stars: Philip Michael Thomas, Irene Cara, Lonette McKee
Action | Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

At Madame Zenobia's illegal nightclub, when Steve Jackson and Wardell Franklin get robbed of their wallets containing a winning lottery ticket, they set out to recover it.

Director: Sidney Poitier
Stars: Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte
Claudine (1974)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In the 1970s Harlem, garbage collector Roop feels intimidated by the idea of dating Claudine who is a single mother of six on welfare.

Director: John Berry
Stars: Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs
Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Richard Pryor is playing three different roles here. The first being a poor orange picker named Leroy Jones who gets laid off when by mistake he joins the worker's union during one of their... See full summary »

Director: Michael Schultz
Stars: Richard Pryor, Lonette McKee, Margaret Avery
Comedy | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

Tired of the slave-like treatment of his team's owner, charismatic star Negro League pitcher Bingo Long takes to the road with his band of barnstormers through the small towns of the Midwest in the 1930's.

Director: John Badham
Stars: Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Richard Pryor
Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A 12-year-old is traumatised by the murder of his friend, a star basketball player.

Director: Joseph Manduke
Stars: Moses Gunn, Rosalind Cash, Bernie Casey
Crime | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Dave Anderson and Manny Durrell are two high-class sneak thieves who have never been caught. Joshua Burke is a retired detective who has enough evidence on the both of them to put them ... See full summary »

Director: Sidney Poitier
Stars: Sidney Poitier, Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones
Biography | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

After severely burning himself in a drug incident, a comedian has a near death experience in which he reviews his life.

Director: Richard Pryor
Stars: Richard Pryor, Debbie Allen, Art Evans
The Josephine Baker Story (TV Movie 1991)
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Josephine Baker was born poor, but achieved fame and fortune through her sizzlingly exotic and erotic performances. Starting life on the American Vaudeville ... See full summary »

Director: Brian Gibson
Stars: Lynn Whitfield, Rubén Blades, David Dukes
Out of Darkness (TV Movie 1994)
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A paranoid schizophrenic woman finds treatment to her mental illness after 18 years of suffering.

Director: Larry Elikann
Stars: Diana Ross, Ann Weldon, Rhonda Stubbins White
The Mack (1973)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Goldie returns from five years at the state pen and winds up king of the pimping game. Trouble comes in the form of two corrupt white cops and a crime lord who wants him to return to the ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Campus
Stars: Max Julien, Don Gordon, Richard Pryor
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
Reg Hanley (as James Callahan)
...
Harry
...
...
Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair ...
Yvonne
...
Tracee Lyles ...
The Prostitute
...
The Agent
Milton Selzer ...
The Doctor
...
The Detective #1
Clay Tanner ...
The Detective #2
Jester Hairston ...
The Butler
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El ocaso de una estrella  »

Box Office

Gross:

$9,600,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Dorothy Dandridge was to star in the role of Billie Holiday in an earlier proposed film version of the singer's autobiography, but died before the film was made. See more »

Quotes

Louis McKay: [offering Billie a $20 bill] You want my arm to fall off.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Lady Sings the Blues (Featurette) (1972) See more »

Soundtracks

Tain't Nobody's Business
Written by Porter Grainger and Everett Robbins
Sung by Blinky (as Blinky Williams)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Hopelessly Unhistoric
16 March 2002 | by (Oakland, CA) – See all my reviews

Diana Ross put in a very fine performance playing a very difficult role. Sadly, that role was not Billie Holiday and this is my big problem with this film. Any film with a musician as its subject should have loads of that musician's art. Diana Ross does sing some songs, but the MUSIC is not the focus of the film. The unhistoric life of Lady Day is: her experiences as a prostitute, her first gig, getting discovered, touring with a white band, Strange Fruit, etc. They are all thrown together into a hapless hodge-podge lacking continuity or even a semblance of a timeline. An even greater sin is that Lady Day did not develop in a vacuum as this film would have you believe. She was a vital part of the larger jazz scene of the 30s and 40s, a scene she shared on an equal footing with such giants as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Teddy Wilson, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Ben Webster, and most importantly John Hammond, the famous producer and talent scout who discovered Lady Day in a small Harlem club. None of these people appear in the film in any way, shape, or fashion. That's not just ridiculous, it's criminal. I don't know if there was a permissions problem in portraying them on film (some of them were still alive when the film was made), but their absence is sorely felt.

Amadeus is also criticized as unhistoric, which it is, but it made the best of Mozart's life by putting his music at center stage. (It also helps that the events it portrayed were in chronological order.) The same could have maybe rescued LADY SINGS THE BLUES, but the opportunity was missed. Other than Diana Ross's harrowing portrayal of a heroin addicted singer (who could have been anyone but Billie Holiday), there is nothing to recommend this movie. Go watch Ken Burns' JAZZ series instead.


32 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page