7.1/10
3,741
50 user 19 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 »
Reviews
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. Diana Ross sings Billie Holiday and a superstar is born. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In Time Magazine, Richard Corliss named this movie as one of the Top 25 Important Movies on Race. See more »

Goofs

Some of the African-American male characters and extras sport modern (1972) hair styles with Afros or sideburns which were not in style in the 1930s. See more »

Quotes

Billie Holiday: [after Louis discovers that Billie shoots up] Sure I've taken a few shots, but only when I needed it,
[Louis sighs]
Billie Holiday: but i'm not hooked, Louis. I'm not.
Louis McKay: Only when you needed it. What do you think hooked is? All I had to do is listen to your voice on the telephone and I knew. Who the hell do you think you're talking to? One of those ofay cats you be running around with? I've been on those streets all of my life. I know what that shit is!
Billie Holiday: It's good, ain't it?
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Bourgie Sings the Blues (1995) See more »

Soundtracks

The Man I Love
(uncredited)
music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin
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User Reviews

 
Ross Totally deserved the Oscar over Liza Minelli
8 April 1999 | by Rupe-5See all my reviews

I would be the first to agree that it was standard fare as far as a musical bio...and Cabaret was a superior film. But Diana Ross' performance was a stunning film debut. This is the kind of overlooked performance that makes it so clear that pure ability is not what the Academy Awards are all about. I tend to think really great acting always sneaks above the voting members scope of being able to truly reccognize great acting.

But anyone who hasn't seen Diana Ross' performance in Lady is in for a treat. To think that she went through so many transitions within the film: from youngster, to a drug addict, to a grand singer...it's a truly great performance.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lady Sings the Blues See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$6,028,486
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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