(2006 TV Movie)

User Reviews

Review this title
2 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Trying to Fit Too Much Material into a Short Running-Time
l_rawjalaurence26 December 2014
Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and Janis Joplin were all united by two things; they were great singers and all died young as a result of turbulent private lives.

The premise for this documentary is a good one; but director Jill Nicholls make the mistake of trying to fit too much material into a 59-minute running time. As a result the narrative comprised a series of ten-minute pen portraits of each singer, illustrated with brief clips of them in performance and accompanied by reminiscences from luminaries such as the late Mickey Rooney.

There were some redeeming features along the way. We learned, for instance, how Holiday refused to be cowed by anyone, despite suffering overtly racist treatment in the pre-civil rights era. Every time she visited a concert venue, the police searched her for drugs; and when they were successful, they made strenuous efforts to incarcerate her in jail. Garland grew up in a showbiz environment, and was so much locked into a life of performance that very few people knew her true character - funny, warm, with a salty sense of humor. One clip from a performance late in her career was especially poignant; she could hardly sing "Over the Rainbow" and had to rely on the help of her daughter Liza Minnelli to get through the song. Piaf led a fast life of drink, drugs and endless performance, but her signature tune "Je ne Regrette Rien" was especially apt - although she died aged only forty-seven, she crammed enough incident into her short life to make every day worth living.

In truth, to make a program about Joplin, Garland and Holiday was a rather difficult exercise, as all three singers used very different musical styles. The profiles left us wanting more; the kind of information that might be best provided by devoting forty-five minutes, or even an hour to each singer. BBC documentary schedulers please take note.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Singing the blues
Prismark106 December 2014
The BBC blurb painted this documentary about 'a group of female singers whose voices make you weep, who sang songs of heartbreak and betrayal, had lives that seemed to mirror their music and deaths that came too soon.'

Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf and Judy Garland sang in different genres, styles and came from different cultures. Garland was the most famous thanks to her acting. They all died relatively young, Joplin was 27 years old when she died and Callas lived the longest as she was 53 years old when she died.

The documentary was a bite sized attempt to inform you of these ladies talent and troubled lives. You had talking heads the more interesting ones were the people who knew them, worked with them or were family members such as Mickey Rooney, Charles Aznavour or Lorna Luft. Then you had modern day personalities who are celebrity fans but they were little more than decoration.

I am not sure the sad songs reflected their lives. Garland sang a wide variety of tunes and of course best known for The Wizard of Oz. Holliday certainly did sing the blues and her life as a black lady in an era where she was treated as a second class citizen would had been harsh. Holliday as the documentary tells you sang about civil rights 20 years before it became fashionable. Callas sang many of the opera classics.

The women did have many similarities in some ways. Problems with their body image such as Joplin and Callas (Callas somehow trimming down, unusual for an opera singer.) The longing to have children, Callas and Holliday, dysfunctional and troubled childhoods, Piaf and Holliday and all of them being surrounded with booze and narcotics or other types of medication. All of them had trouble with men and in Holliday and Joplin's case, women as well.

The women certainly showed grit and dedication to succeed in show business but this programme was a shallow look at their lives and music.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed