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Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (2007)

A tribute to jazz diva Anita O'Day, completed just weeks before her death in November 2006.

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Anita O'Day ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Leonard Feather ...
Will Friedwald ...
Russell Garcia ...
Himself (as Russ Garcia)
Willis Holman ...
Himself (as Bill Holman)
Eddie Locke ...
Johnny Mandel ...
John Poole ...
Himself (archive footage)
Denny Roach ...
Billy Taylor ...


A documentary look at the improvised life of Anita O'Day (1919-2006), singer and stylist whose timing, phrasing, interpretations, and unique sound put her among the finest vocalists of jazz. Interviews with her late in life are interspersed with archival footage of performances and old interviews as well as with comments by friends, arrangers, critics, and other musicians. She talks about singing without a uvula (sing eighth notes), of jail time for a marijuana arrest, of taking and kicking heroin, of finally making money after appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival, of loss, of a broken arm that almost cost her life, and of living in 4/4 time, one day at a time, smiling. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Documentary | Music



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Release Date:

30 April 2007 (USA)  »

Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)

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Did You Know?


The film depicts Anita O'Day's emergence as a solo artist and her signing with Bob Thiele's Signature label by showing a cardboard cut-out of her with the slogan, "Hey, ops! I'm on Signature now!" "Ops" meant jukebox operators, who were crucial to the success of a record in the 1930's and 1940's. Not only did they buy a lot of records themselves, they also promoted it by putting it on their jukeboxes. See more »


In one of the interview clips, Anita O'Day says that composer-arranger Gary McFarland died soon after the release of the album they made together, "All the Sad Young Men." McFarland actually lived another 10 years after the 1961 release of his record with O'Day, and died on November 2, 1971. See more »


Features Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959) See more »

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User Reviews

A Love Letter To Jazz
28 November 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Anita O'Day may not be as well known a Jazz singer as,oh say...Ella Fitzgerald,or even Sarah Vaughn, but over a period of sixty-odd years, she certainly made a name for herself,none the less. She started out as a singer with drummer/composer/band leader, Gene Krupa,moving on to a brief stint with Stan Kenton, and releasing a healthy legacy of recordings for Jazz legend Norman Grantz's Verve label,before entering a 15 year love affair with Heroin. This very well produced documentary features all of these facts & more. For it's relatively short running time (only about 90 minutes),it packs a treasure trove of film clips of performances (including the now legendary footage of O'Day singing 'Sweet Georgia Brown',at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival),and in some examples,complete performances,and not just excerpts of songs, plus film & video footage of interviews of O'Day,from some rare early television kine scopes,to just prior to her death in 2006, as well as others. Although the film does make brief mention of her short lived marriages,it doesn't really go much into her private life (she regarded her private life as just that,so we don't get a whole lot about it). If you consider yourself a lover of Jazz,you owe it to yourself to seek this film out. No MPAA rating here (as it's being distributed as an art film),but does contain a few rude words & references to O'Day's rampant drug problems, but is basically okay for teens,and even pre-teens with an interest in Jazz.

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