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

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


Robbie Cavolina (co-director), Ian McCrudden (co-director)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Anita O'Day ... Herself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Louis Armstrong ... Himself (archive footage)
Buddy Bregman ... Himself
Dick Cavett ... Himself (archive footage)
Leonard Feather Leonard Feather ... Himself
Will Friedwald Will Friedwald ... Himself
Russell Garcia Russell Garcia ... Himself (as Russ Garcia)
Willis Holman Willis Holman ... Himself (as Bill Holman)
Eddie Locke Eddie Locke ... Himself
Johnny Mandel Johnny Mandel ... Himself
John Cameron Mitchell ... Himself
John Poole John Poole ... Himself (archive footage)
Denny Roach Denny Roach ... Himself
Annie Ross ... Herself
Billy Taylor Billy Taylor ... Himself


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


Not Rated


Official Sites:

additional site | Official site





Release Date:

30 April 2007 (USA) See more »


Box Office


$600,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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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 Well Deserved Tribute But Little New Information About An Exceptional Singer
30 April 2007 | by alicegriffinSee all my reviews

I saw this tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.

Anita O'Day's story was well documented in her autobiography "High Times, Hard Times", which is respected for its unflinching candor. The best feature of this documentary is the clips of Anita's performances, many of which have never been seen before. It includes, of course, her landmark performance of 'Sweet Georgia Brown' from the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, and several other performances that evidence her right to be considered one of jazz's finest vocalists. In addition to these clips there are interviews with jazz luminaries including George Wein (legendary founder of the Newport Jazz Festival), Margaret Whiting, and Dr. Billy Taylor. These experts credibly testify about Anita's genius and her standing relative to other jazz singers who obtained greater celebrity, such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughn.

This documentary does not provide new information about either Anita's private life or career, but it is important as a tribute to a singer whose talent justified greater acclaim than she received.

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