A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE: THE LAST DAYS OF BILLIE HOLIDAY
Test Prep Question of the Day Billie Holiday, famed jazz singer, died yesterday in Metropolitan Hospital. other jazz singer, except the two who inspired her, Louis Armstrong and the late Bessie Smith. She is survived by her husband, Louis McKay. A previous marriage, to Joe Guy, a trumpet player, ended in divorce. By the s, Holiday's drug abuse, drinking, and relationships with On March 28, , Holiday married Louis McKay, a Mafia enforcer, who. I had asked Abbey Lincoln to play Billie, but she was in the midst of an in which she said she dreamed of playing Billie Holiday in a movie. But we still faced the question: who would play the key role of Louis McKay, Billie's husband? The next day he arrived at the studio, and we filmed a screen test.
Bandleader Artie Shaw insisted he owned the rights to her life because she had toured with him, until I told him that she had told me she detested him, for good reason he made her stay in the servant's quarters of the Hotel Edison in New York. I had a young Canadian writer, Terence McCloy, working for years on screenplays he ended up getting an Academy Award nomination for his effortsand over the years -- as I became a recognized film producer and in made my first picture, For Love of Ivy, starring Sidney Poitier and Abbey Lincoln the first major studio film to star two black leadsthings slowly began to pull together.
I had asked Abbey Lincoln to play Billie, but she was in the midst of an ugly situation with her first husband, drummer Max Roach, who didn't want her to do another film, and she pulled out. Poitier was dating Diahanne Carroll and, for a moment, she was involved. Gordon was skeptical, and after he and I went to the Waldorf to see Diana in concert, he told me he didn't want do it with her but I was free to try elsewhere.
And twice he rejected my entries But the third approach proved to be magical, for I returned with a director named Sidney Furie, who had just won acclaim for a Michael Caine movie.
When Furie first read the script, he threw it across the room, but his wife, Lynda, picked it up and read it Joe Schoenfeld, the "connected" William Morris agent and conduit to Gordy, repped Furie and he convinced Berry to take a meeting with us.
I recall Gordy was playing pool in his huge office on Sunset Blvd. This time, he agreed to let Diana play the role if we could set it up at a major studio.
Making a LADY: The Story of a Groundbreaking Cinematic Classic | THE DIANA ROSS PROJECT
An actor named Brad Dexter was a close friend of director Furie. Dexter was famous for one thing: Brad alerted us to the fact that his friend, Frank Yablans, was about to take over the helm of Paramount Pictures, with Bob Evans remaining as head of production. At nine am on a morning in FebruaryBrad went into the studio to alert his buddy about the Lady Sings the Blues package.
By six pm that night, we had a deal to make the movie there. Berry Gordy, sensing that this movie was going to be a trendsetting event for himself as well as for Diana, took an active role in moving it forward. But we still faced the question: Starring in it was a charismatic young black actor, Billy Dee Williams, playing a smooth hustler. Going backstage, I told the actor that if I ever made the movie about Billie Holiday's life, I would love for him to audition for the lead male role.
Diana Ross Discusses Lady Sings the Blues on Oprah
After settling into the Paramount lot, we began casting I was having a party on a Saturday night at my home in the Hollywood hills, and Diana and Berry would be there. I tried to find that actor, Billy Dee Williams, to no avail. He didn't have an agent The morning of the party, I went to a supermarket at Highland and Hollywood Blvd. Without explaining, I gave him my address and told him he had to be at my house that evening.
I introduced him to all the players, who liked him but felt that he seemed a little young for the role. The next day he arrived at the studio, and we filmed a screen test with Diana. The next day, when she and I sat in a screening room and ran the test, I vividly remember her sliding down in her seat and whispering to me, "He's the one. Until we came to the nightclub scene, where a flashy young Billie walks down the steps of Jerry's nightclub to ask for a job.
Diana Ross Discusses Lady Sings the Blues on Oprah | HuffPost
After she proves to be an inept dancer, she asks Jerry if she can sing for him. The piano player in the band was played by a relatively unknown comic named Richard Pryor. Billie was such a strong character, yet there are so many different descriptions of her personality. Why do you think this is the case? The fullest record she left of her inner life and her experiences is in her music. Langston Hughes and Charles Henri Ford wrote poetry about her. William Faulkner and Marianne Moore were both drawn to her.
Jack Kerouac wanted to build a novel around her, and Orson Welles wanted to put her in his films. A Rhapsody of Negro Life. One of the main goals of the book is to make clear that Holiday was an artist who deliberately and painstakingly crafted her work. She was not a gifted primitive. This point is clearly made. But you go on to make a more difficult point to grasp. Is that what you were driving at, or is it something else?
Acting the part of the woman who suffered abuse gave her some control, perhaps, over the reality of abuse. Treasury with its rag paper since the Hayes administration. Hammond would say he fired Holiday because of her drug use; she would say she walked away from the concert because he nickeled and dimed her.
Some who knew Holiday before and after she began using heroin in the early s described a change in her character: In other ways, her circumstances as an adult were not materially worse than her circumstances as a child. But by the time she was in her latter 20s the substances she used appear to have gotten the upper hand.
Dense and tangled indeed.