The story of the troubled life and career of the legendary Jazz singer, Billie Holiday.

Director:

Sidney J. Furie

Writers:

Chris Clark (screenplay), Suzanne De Passe (screenplay) (as Suzanne de Passe) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Diana Ross ... Billie Holiday
Billy Dee Williams ... Louis McKay
Richard Pryor ... Piano Man
James T. Callahan ... Reg Hanley (as James Callahan)
Paul Hampton ... Harry
Sid Melton ... Jerry
Virginia Capers ... Mama Holiday
Yvonne Fair Yvonne Fair ... Yvonne
Isabel Sanford ... The Madame
Tracee Lyles Tracee Lyles ... The Prostitute
Ned Glass ... The Agent
Milton Selzer ... The Doctor
Norman Bartold ... The Detective #1
Clay Tanner Clay Tanner ... The Detective #2
Jester Hairston ... The Butler
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Storyline

Born Elinore Harris, Billie Holiday had a difficult teen and young adulthood period, which included working in brothels, both as a cleaning woman and a prostitute, and being raped. Through this difficulty, she dreamed of becoming a jazz singer. She got her initial singing break when she applied at a Harlem club that was looking for a dancer, but where she got hired as a singer. There, she met and fell in love with the suave Louis McKay. After this initial break, Billie wanted her singing career to move to the mainstream clubs in downtown Manhattan. She took a risk when she agreed to be the lead singer for the Reg Hanley Band, a primarily white group, who convinced her that she would have to make her mark in regional tours before her Manhattan dream could happen. As Billie tried to advance her career, pressures of life, including being a black woman, led to her not so secret substance abuse (especially of heroin), not so secret because of her increasingly erratic behavior, both on ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Diana Ross is Billie Holiday. Diana Ross sings Billie Holiday and a superstar is born. See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Diana Ross was pregnant with daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick while preparing for her role in this movie. See more »

Goofs

At one point, Billie's agent tells her she will be the first jazz singer to perform at Carnegie Hall. But by the time she sang at Carnegie Hall, there had been many jazz performances there. See more »

Quotes

Billie Holiday: [singing] You took the part, That once was my heart, So why not, Take all of me. Yeah! Take all of me.
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Connections

Referenced in The Jeffersons: Me and Billy Dee (1978) See more »

Soundtracks

Good Morning Heartache
(uncredited)
music and lyrics by Irene Higginbotham, Ervin Drake and Dan Fisher
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User Reviews

 
Ross Fantastic but "Lady" coulda, shoulda...
20 August 2001 | by a_verrusoSee all my reviews

There is no question that no matter how extreme in the past or future Miss. Ross has been or will be (tantrums, bad albums, phoniness, bad publicity, touch me, don't touch me), she will always have this performance to look back on as a moment where everything worked perfectly.

The film is imperfect. Flawed. It could have been more realistic, more harrowing, and less hollywood-fied. Had it been, and had Motown not been so intent on proving itself as a major film force, she would have won the Oscar without question. The rumor had always been that in terms of voting it was "this close" as they say.

Even though she did not win, we are still left with a performance of depth, passion and layers that could only be described as magnificent in an experienced actress. In a neophyte, as Miss. Ross was at the time, it is stunning.

As a singer, She never before or since has sounded as good. The voice, while not really like Billie Holiday, just glows. Her musicality, intonation and idiomatic phrasing indicated a whole type of music she could have sung had she chosen too.

Watch it for her. It will make you think more kindly towards her the next time she, well, acts like Miss. Ross!


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 October 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lady Sings the Blues See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$6,028,486
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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