Lady Sings the Blues

Lady Sings the Blues

3.4 5
Director: Sidney J. Furie

Cast: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor


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Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison cell, awaiting sentencing on drug charges, reflects on her turbulent life. Raped in her youth by a drunk (Adolph Caesar), then compelled to work as a domestic in a Harlem whorehouse, Holliday is encouraged to try for a…  See more details below


Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison cell, awaiting sentencing on drug charges, reflects on her turbulent life. Raped in her youth by a drunk (Adolph Caesar), then compelled to work as a domestic in a Harlem whorehouse, Holliday is encouraged to try for a singing career by the bordello's pianist (Richard Pryor). She rises as high as it is possible to go in the white-dominated show business world of the 1930s, but can't handle the pressure and turns to narcotics. The film takes several liberties with the 44-year existence of "Lady Day." Among the Billie Holiday standards performed by Ross are "My Man," "I Cried for You," "Lover Man," "Them There Eyes," and the title song.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
You would think that the eventful and exciting life of Billie Holiday would provide more than enough dramatic material for an engrossing, involving, and emotion-packed motion picture, but apparently the creators of Lady Sings the Blues thought otherwise. Rather than concentrate on the fascinating real life of the woman who was arguably the world's most influential jazz vocalist, the screenwriters and directors have fallen back on the same old rise-and-fall showbiz story that Hollywood has churned out for years. Yes, there are differences, such as the explicit role that drugs and sex play in the story, but these are merely trappings that don't change the essential triteness of the story. As a result, what emerges is an entertaining but fairly routine soap opera, enlivened by the musical interludes and by some strong performances. As the lady herself, Diana Ross is a far cry from Billie Holiday, but since the script as written could be about any tortured singer, this doesn't really matter. She plays the big emotional scenes for all they are worth and creates a compelling character that holds the viewer's attention throughout. Despite some valiant attempts, she can't really capture Holiday's unique vocal presence -- and who could? -- but she does work the songs for all they're worth. Her supporting cast is solid, and there's definite chemistry between Ross and Billy Dee Williams. Sidney J. Furie's direction is pedestrian and Michel Legrand's background score is so over-the-top as to become annoying, but as long as Ross is going through her paces, there's plenty there to keep the viewer entertained.

Product Details

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Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
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Special Features

Closed Caption; Commentary by executive producer Berry Gordy, director Sidney Furie and artist manager Shelly Berger; Behind the blues: Lady Sings the Blues; Deleted scenes

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Diana Ross Billie Holiday
Billy Dee Williams Louis McKay
Richard Pryor Piano Man
James Callahan Reg
Paul Hampton Harry
Tracee Lyles Whore
Sid Melton Jerry
Michelle Aller Actor
Larry Duran Actor
Jester Hairston Actor
Lynn Hamilton Actor
Byron Kane Actor
Bert Kramer Actor
Helen Lewis Actor
Don McGovern Actor
Barbara Minkus Actor
Dick Poston Actor
Milton Selzer The Doctor
Clay Tanner Actor
Charles Woolf Actor
George Wyner Actor
Denise Denise Actor
Paul Micale Actor
Kay Lewis Actor
Ernie Robinson Actor
Virginia Capers Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair Yvonne
Scatman Crothers Big Ben
Harry Caesar Rapist
Robert L. Gordy Hawk
Ned Glass Agent
Paulene Myers Mrs. Edson
Isabel Sanford Madame
Norman Bartold Detective

Technical Credits
Sidney J. Furie Director
Ray Aghayan Costumes/Costume Designer
Reg Allen Set Decoration/Design
John A. Alonzo Cinematographer
Carl Anderson Production Designer
Gil Askey Score Composer
Chris Clark Screenwriter
Suzanne De Passe Screenwriter
David Dockendorf Sound/Sound Designer
Berry Gordy Producer
Norma Koch Costumes/Costume Designer
Bob Mackie Costumes/Costume Designer
Terence McCloy Screenwriter
Michel Legrand Score Composer
Argyle Nelson Editor
Don Schoenfeld Makeup
Charles C. Washburn Asst. Director
Jay Weston Producer
James S. White Producer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Lady Sings the Blues
1. Chapter 1
2. Chapter 2
3. Chapter 3
4. Chapter 4
5. Chapter 5
6. Chapter 6
7. Chapter 7
8. Chapter 8
9. Chapter 9
10. Chapter 10
11. Chapter 11
12. Chapter 12
13. Chapter 13
14. Chapter 14
15. Chapter 15
16. Chapter 16
17. Chapter 17
18. Chapter 18
19. Chapter 19
20. Chapter 20


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Lady Sings the Blues 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Diana Ross surprised the public when she debuted in her first starring film role as Billie Holiday. She not only proved she could sing jazz, but that she had an amazingly natural acting talent. Rumor has it the only reason she didn't take home the best actress Oscar that year was because of the uninvited pressure Berry Gordy put on the academy voters. The film features a sexy Billy Dee Williams, and comic relief Richard Pryor and Scatman Crothers. The entire cast shines. Although Diana doesn't attempt to sound like Billie Holiday, and the film doesn't tell the exact story of her life (she actually had more than one romantic interest, for example), Lady Sings the Blues stands on its own as an engrossing story and one of the best films of the 70s, and showed the potential Diana had to offer as a leading lady. Unfortunately Diana's subsequent films (Mahogany, the Wiz, Out of Darkness and Double Platinum) didn't reach the superior quality of this one, despite their individual value. Now that "Lady" is finally on DVD, the world has a chance to once again re-experience the film's greatness. In addition there are extras, which make it a "must have" even moreso!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great writing, great producing, great directing, great music, great acting. What a classic! Though this was Diana Ross first acting role, she handled it like a pro. She went from a child to an adult. She used a wide range of emotions. Sista girl, worked those addiction scenes like a pro. I believe given the right script, director, producer and cast, Diana Ross would give another stellar performance on the big screen! Miss Ross may I have your autograph, please!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having been an avid fan of Diane's since the release of "Meet The Supremes" in 1962, I think this movie lacked alot of vision and forethought. It was rushed into production by Gordy hoping to cash in on the heighth of Diane's solo career and, wanting to branch out into the movie industry. Other than Diane's supurb singing the film was a total wash. Like the book of the same title, 'Lady' was full of untruths and misconcetions Billie didn't meet McKay for the first time until the early 1950's. Billie's piano man was never murdered while she stood by helplessly. Louis McKay himself was a drug addict,instead of the goodie two shoes we see in the film. If it showed the truth about Holiday, instead of the romantic twiddle we were subjected to, Diane would surly have won the Osacr that year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago