The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.
This is an excellent movie and by the rating it has received here (7/10) and the five Academy Awards & three Golden Globe nominations it garnered (Diana Ross won the Golden Globe for Most Promising New Actress); my opinion is not in the minority. While this film may gloss over a lot of Billie's life, the script was based on her autobiography (this may be how Billie chose to remember her past) and the screenplay was also nominated for an Oscar.
Diana Ross did not capture the look and sound of Billie Holliday nor did she attempt to. Diana Ross did not channel Billie Holliday the way that Angela Bassett did with Tina Turner or the way Val Kilmer did with Jim Morrison or how Jamie Foxx did with Ray Charles but she internalized Billie's triumphs, pain, struggles, and personal demons and depicted this exceptionally well and she interpreted Billie's voice by not trying to duplicate the inimitatable but maximized the range of her own voice using Billie's distinctive phrasing and capturing the essence of her spirit while coaxing out a myriad of emotions. The double album soundtrack topped the Billboard charts for two weeks, Diana Ross' only number one Pop album as a solo singer.
This film made me a Billie Holliday fan at age 4. After this film, in addition to Billie, I listened to Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Torme, Nat King Cole, Ethel Waters, and Dinah Washington while my peers were just starting to rock to disco. This film and its music still stands the test of time as implied by the recent success of Diana Ross' CD, "Blue" (which was previously unreleased material originally recorded for Motown as a follow-up to this soundtrack) on the jazz and adult contemporary Billboard charts. Billie Holliday is without a doubt an icon but so is Diana Ross. Most people would have to admit that for a debut performance, Diana Ross did an outstanding job, no matter what you may think of her personally. In addition, for it to be the only screenplay that she has ever written, Suzanne DePasse (who was a Motown A&R executive at the time and was the first and remains the only Black woman to be nominated for an Oscar for writing) created a great story even if it presents a slightly less gritty portrayal of the troubled singer's life.
- Feb 15, 2008