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Lady Sings the Blues

314 customer reviews

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(Nov 08, 2005)
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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.

Special Features

  • Behind the scenes featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Commentaries

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: Multiple Formats, 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.)
  • 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 (314 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000B5XOT8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,173 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Lady Sings the Blues" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

76 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 15, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
The most influential, creative, and emotional blues singer from the 1930s through 1959, 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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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By R. Rodriguez on 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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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Michael Puckett on 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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30 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Darren on January 27, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
Although she is a magnificent singer and has acted in numerous movies, I believe this to be one of the few films in which Ms Ross ever showcased any stellar acting ability. I agree with the reviewer that implied she left her real acting talent somewhere along the Yellowbrick Road.

This movie gives but a glimpse of the grief, heartache and loss experienced by Billie Holiday in her tragically short life. Some visual images used in the movie are quite intense and emotionally riveting. They make it easy to understand how the 'blues' are truly experienced.

Ms Ross's smooth jazzy vocals resonate the soundtrack with a contrasting clarity to Holiday's original recordings but superbly capture the emotional intensity of Billie's vaccilating depression and addiction.

Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor are excellent in supporting roles. Williams provides the love and compassion that just aren't enough to rescue Holiday from the depths of her addiction. Pryor and Scatman Crothers (in a small role) add some islands of comic relief to the generally depressed mood.

Lady Sings the Blues is for those who want to get a glimpse of the tragic life of Billy Holiday. It's also for those who want to see Ms Ross's best dramatic performance and won't be upset with her 'smoother' vocal renditions of the Lady Day songbook.
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