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Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Diana Ross , Billy Dee Williams , Sidney J. Furie  |  R |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, James T. Callahan, Paul Hampton
  • Directors: Sidney J. Furie
  • Writers: Billie Holiday, Chris Clark, Suzanne De Passe, Terence McCloy, William Dufty
  • Producers: Berry Gordy, Brad Dexter
  • Format: Collector's Edition, Color, Special Edition, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: November 8, 2005
  • Run Time: 144 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (212 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B5XOT8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,552 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lady Sings the Blues" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Behind the scenes featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Commentaries

Editorial Reviews

The essence of Billie Holiday, one of America's most loved and memorable blues singers, is captured brilliantly in a tour-de-force debut performance by singer Diana Ross. Filled with the greatest songs of the incomparable "Lady Day," this stunning film biography received five Academy Award. nominations, including Diana Ross for "Best Actress." Costarring Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose..." September 15, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
The most influential, creative, and emotional blues singer from the 1930s to the early 1950s, Billie Holiday may have attracted a whole new generation of fans through this 1972 film biography. Though the film is not historically accurate about her life and her relationship with Louis McKay (played by Billie Dee Williams), it is effective in demonstrating the traumas of her early life, the color bar which prevented her from singing in many whites-only venues, her drug and alcohol addictions (which eventually led to her death at age forty-four of liver and heart disease), and the events which led to many of her most famous songs.

Diana Ross, as Billie, is passionate and driven, and her portrayal of Billie in the midst of drug withdrawal is heart-rending and effective. Playing the role "full out," Ross deals with the script she has been given, and she richly deserves her Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Female Newcomer in this screen debut. A consortium of scriptwriters, which drew on the frank, but partly fictionalized, autobiography Billie wrote with William Dufty in 1956, has omitted or changed many aspects of her life in order to make the film more unified and dramatic, creating a film that creates even more myths about Billie.

Billy Dee Williams is terrific as Louis McKay, appearing slick and smooth at the beginning, but showing subtle changes of feeling as he is drawn into Billie's orbit and provides some stability for her. The accompanist (Richard Pryor) seems genuinely to care for her, as, it seems, does Reg Hanley (James T. Callahan), though the reasons Harry Bradford (Paul Hampton) has for getting her hooked on drugs is not clear.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It�s All About Diana! January 28, 2000
Format:VHS Tape
This biography loosely based on the tragic life of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday is a beautifully shot and art directed film. It also contains one of the best soundtrack recordings in movie history. But the facts about Holiday's life have been so condensed here that it borders on fiction. If you can get past the fictionalized storyline and just accept what you are being shown as a good story, you will ultimately be moved by the dramatic portayals in the movie.
Diana Ross tackled this role like a hungry dog might attack a piece of raw sirloin. She is astonishing both in her performance and her unique beauty. I literally gasped watching her during the heroin withdrawal scences it is so real, and her ability to mood swing from conivingly sweet, to wild eyed hellion is nothing short of brilliant!
I highly recommend this film especially if you've only seen The Wiz, and think Miss Ross can't act.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TOP TEN MOVIE DEBUT! August 20, 2005
Format:DVD
In her first feature film Diana Ross delivers a tour de force performance as Billie Holiday not only capturing the Holiday persona but delivering mightly on the Holiday sound. The soundtrack did shoot straight to #1. From a child in pig tails playing hopscotch to her satin gowned debut at carnegie hall Ross delivers a flawless performance worthy of an oscar and indeed was nominated for one.The chemistry between Ross and Billy Dee Williams ( Lando of the Star wars saga ) smolders on screen,the way they play off each other is touching. Ross`s reaction upon first seeing Billy Dee Williams is shear brilliance for they have never looked finer on film. Richard Pryor as Piano Man adds a spark of humor as only he can Other notable performances include Isabell Sanford (of the Jeffersons)as the Madam and Scatman Crothers (One Flew Over The Cuckoo`s Nest, The Shining) as Big Ben. The exchange between these two in a brothel is classic, the sense of delivery, the timing, its hard not to think of Ross as a seasoned pro. She holds her own and delivers a touching portrayal, she makes you believe she is Billie Hoilday. And then there is the singing. Ross takes on the Holiday catalog with a hunger unsurpassed, her renditions of Good Morning Heartache, God Bless The Child, Strange Fruit and others rival that of Holiday herself. To think that a singer with no acting experince, sans a few television spots from the Motown stable had it in her to tackle the heavy handed material in this movie makes this film even more of a must see.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Diana Ross in her knockout film debut April 4, 2003
Format:VHS Tape
When Berry Gordy announced that Diana Ross was to play Billie Holiday in a biopic, jazz "purists" were outraged. They blasted that the "plastic princess of pop" couldn't possibly play Lady Day for the following reasons:
1 There was no physical resemblance between Lady Day and Diana - Billie wasn't a slim woman.
2 Diana's musical heritage haled from a different era to Holiday's.
3 At the age of 28, Diana simply hadn't been on the planet long enough to even dream of portraying one of the greatest jazz singers who ever lived. How dare she!
So, it was clear from the outset that Diana had a lot to prove, and that there were critics who were itching to see her and Motown fall flat on their faces. When Lady Sings the Blues premiered in the US, Diana proved the critics wrong. I must say, that I was around 12 or 13 (in the early 80s) when I watched this movie for the first time on British TV. At that time, I had no idea who Billie Holiday was. I was bowled over by Diana's electric performance, and this prompted me to buy Holiday's music and learn more about her turbulent life.
The film is loosely based on Holiday's autobiography. Holiday's three husbands were whittled down to just one - Louis MacKay, played brilliantly by Diana's co-star, Billie Dee Williams. The first scene of Holiday being thrown into a padded cell like a piece of meat - and then going completely crazy before being restrained in a straight jacket- sets the tone for the movie. Billie's mind then travels back in time to her teenage years, when she worked in a brothel in Baltimore.
Billie's love affair with music ignites when she's sent to Harlem by her mother to meet a "Sister Edson from church". What her mother didn't know was that Sister Edson ran a brothel of her own.
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