(out of 5)
This film pays righteous tribute to pioneer jazz singer Billie Holiday, though not necessarily in ways that you would expect. While the screenplay does a trivial job of encapsulating her career, fictionalizes much of her love life and simplifies her conflicts, the soundtrack is constantly pumping out song after song that hearken back to Holiday’s golden age of music making. Diana Ross is scintillating as the milestone chanteuse, not in any way the same kind of singer but still managing to capture the spirit of the voice whose recordings still seem as fresh and alive today as they did so many decades ago. Beginning with her troubled childhood, the story moves through Holiday’s romance with spiffy Billy Dee Williams and her days in dirty nightclubs until she hits the big time, starts recording and makes a pretty lucrative life for herself. Unfortunately, she deals with her sorrows by taking heroin, and this devastating habit is what eventually does her in. Entertaining as both drama and musical, this film would have done even better to concentrate on the woman herself and not constantly go in for the back-and-forth soap-opera relationship between her and her husband.
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
Cinematography by John A. Alonzo
Music by Michel Legrand
Production Design by Carl Anderson
Film Editing by Argyle Nelson Jr.
Academy Award Nominations
Best Actress (Diana Ross as “Billie Holliday”)
Best Art Direction (art direction: Carl Anderson; set decoration: Reg Allen)
Best Costume Design (Bob Mackie, Ray Aghayan, Norma Koch)
Best Music (Scoring: Adaptation and Original Song Score) (Adaptation score by Gil Askey)
Best Writing (Story and screenplay–based on factual material or material not previously published or produced) (Terence McCloy, Chris Clark, Suzanne de Passe)
Golden Globe Award Nominations
Best Performance By An Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama (Diana Ross)
Best Original Score-Motion Picture (Michel Legrand)