7.1/10
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44 user 21 critic

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

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

Director:

Sidney J. Furie

Writers:

Chris Clark (screenplay), Suzanne De Passe (screenplay) (as Suzanne de Passe) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Diana Ross ... Billie Holiday
Billy Dee Williams ... Louis McKay
Richard Pryor ... Piano Man
James T. Callahan ... Reg Hanley (as James Callahan)
Paul Hampton ... Harry
Sid Melton ... Jerry
Virginia Capers ... Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair Yvonne Fair ... Yvonne
Isabel Sanford ... The Madame
Tracee Lyles Tracee Lyles ... The Prostitute
Ned Glass ... The Agent
Milton Selzer ... The Doctor
Norman Bartold ... The Detective #1
Clay Tanner Clay Tanner ... The Detective #2
Jester Hairston ... The Butler
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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 See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El ocaso de una estrella See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$9,600,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Berry Gordy originally considered Four Tops' lead singer Levi Stubbs for the role of Louis McKay, but Stubbs had turned it down because he thought it would interfere with the group's future success. See more »

Quotes

Piano Man: What she don't pick up from the top, she can pick up from the bottom.
Billie Holiday: I hope that works both ways!
See more »


Soundtracks

Don't Explain
(uncredited)
music and lyrics by Arthur Herzog Jr. and Billie Holiday
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An amazing (and I do mean amazing) acting debut. End of story.
1 December 1999 | by frank56See all my reviews

Now that I am fortysomething (which amazes even me), I can look back and remember the Supremes final appearance on the Ed Sullivan show...and I can also remember Ed announcing that "Miss Ross is leaving the Supremes to pursue an acting career". An acting career....who does she think she is? I pondered this question for the longest time, and remained disappointed in Diana Ross until the very first moments of "Lady Sings the Blues", which play like a jazz tune that seems, at first, to make no sense until you as the listener finally tune into the music which actually made sense all along. Diana Ross dosen't so much act the part of Billie Holiday -- she crafts an unforgettable performance that both embodies the spirit of Holiday while also demonstrating the simplest but most complicated acting demands....she simply poses the question, "What if this were my life?". She produces an acting performance that, coupled with the personalized Holiday vocal interpretations, pull the audience into a deeper and deeper sense of completely going on the character's complete life journey -- you completely believe Ross is Holiday because she is so sure of herself -- SHE believes it -- completely. The story follows a typical formula, but the true reason to watch this film is the acting lesson that Ross teaches. Watch this one -- and learn a little something about craft -- from a master instructor, way ahead of her time.


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