American Masters: Season 14, Episode 3

Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For (8 Dec. 1999)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, Biography, History
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 69 users  
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Title: Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For (08 Dec 1999)

Ella Fitzgerald: Something to Live For (08 Dec 1999) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Episode credited cast:
Herself (archive footage)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Ray Brown Jr. ...
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8 December 1999 (USA)  »

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Fine bio on finest voice of 20th century.
21 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

" She's the best" declares Johnny Mathis of Ella Fitzgerald in the opening moments of the documentary Something to Live For . " Of all of us who do this she is the best" In a career that spanned well over a half century Fitzgerald won a boatload of Grammys and sold some forty million records and never lost her huge following but writers tend to give more ink to the glamorous Lena Horne or the tragic Billie Holiday whose life is a more provocative tell than that of a numbers running husky kid who quickly switched from dancing to singing before a tough Apollo crowd and never looked back. Personally I agree with Mathis though it took me years to get past what she sang to discover the way she sang and just marvel at a voice that could provide instant up-lift or blue mood.

Something to Live For does an excellent job of giving an overview of Fitgerald's career from her youthful big band days with Chick Webb to her triumph with the American Songbook series. Dueting along the way with Perry Como, Frank Sinartra and Louis Armstrong among others as well as riffing with a trombone player the remarkable stage presence of Fitzgerald making it look easy is awe inspiring, especially in this age of screeching songbirds miked up like their working the drive through at Burger King and lip synching in some cases.

Privately there is little to dish on Ella though she had her share of bumps in the road with husbands and segregation and gave enormous amounts to charity without fanfare. Thankfully the bio remains mostly on stage with Fitzgerald through the years maturing and adapting without a hitch her five octave instrument to any song and making it uniquely hers.

Something to Live For is well worth a watch and a listen not only for fans but by the generations who have been subjected to howlers (Cher, Whitney, Barbra etc) with big voices and little nuance. Watching this grand songstress sing Angel Eyes is worth the price of admission alone. It does a fine job of making Johnny's point.

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