Uninspiring and unremarkable biopic of Billie Holiday, based on her autobiography, the accuracy of which is in question. Diana Ross plays Holiday and she neither looks like her nor sounds like her. Given that Holiday was one of the most distinctive vocalists of the 20th century, I don't blame Ross for not being able to imitate her vocal style. But the whole movie you're just aware that it's Diana Ross trying to act like Holiday and you can never really get into the story. The narrative style is fragmented and uneven, touching on her rough childhood, drug and alcohol problems, romantic life, music, and early death at 44. Billy Dee Williams (very suave), Richard Pryor, in one of his best dramatic roles, and Scatman Crothers co-star. Even the music, which should be the highlight, is rather flat. Director Sidney J. Furie had a long and undistinguished career, which included the worst "Superman" movie, a Marlon Brando western, and a Michael Caine thriller (his only good film), and his direction is listless. Motown honcho Barry Gordy produced. Holiday deserves a much better movie.
In spite of being based on Holiday's autobiography, this movie was not realistic at all, and yes, Berry Gordy had his hands on everything. Sidney J. Furie was never that good a director anyway and I'm sure Gordy pushed him around. To begin with, Holiday's mother was only 13 years older and they were often mistaken for sisters. As dreamy as Billy Dee Williams is as Louis McKay, in reality he was the one who supplied her with drugs. Holiday wasn't thin either, she was rather zaftig. Ross didn't even attempt to try and capture her voice.
Gordy would fire Tony Richardson and take over her next gig, Mahogany, which is campy to the point that it's almost up there with Valley of the Dolls and Mommie Dearest!
If you want a good version of Holiday's life, seek out Audra McDonald's performance in the HBO film of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. It's far better than this.
Hello!??... Did Diana Ross (aka. "The Boss") really receive a "Best Actress" Oscar nomination for her lifeless portrayal of early-20th century jazz/blues songstress, Billie Holiday? Did she really!?
Well - After witnessing her one-dimensional performance here in 1972's "Lady Sings The Blues" - It's hard to believe that she did - But, yep - Apparently, it's true.
Anyway - Is it any wonder that this $9 million production was financed by Motown Records big-wig, Berry Gordy who, at the time, was Ross's real-life lover?
And, with that said - I'll bet you that Gordy's influence and push to promote Ross played a huge part in her being nominated for "Best Actress", as well.
If you ask me - (With this being Diana Ross's screen debut) - At 28 and clearly very aware of the camera - Ross showed every agonizing sign of being an unseasoned amateur.
I mean, Ross desperately needed to take some serious acting lessons here, especially when it came to emoting such feelings as anger, sadness, and exhilarating happiness.
'Cause as things stood - Ross couldn't convince me that she was capable of doing this. No way.
Diana Ross is beautiful if not stunning as Billie Holiday in "Lady Sings the Blues". It was the role of a lifetime and Diana Ross made the most of it. Her singing sounds so much like Billie Holiday. She is able to act the young and the older Miss Holiday. Richard Pryor is frosting on a already beautiful cake. Billie Holiday will go down as one of our finest Jazz Singers and Lady Sings the Blues honors her memory better than anything I can think of.
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