DVD - 2015
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Bessie Smith's transformation from a struggling young singer into 'The Empress of the Blues', who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today.
Publisher: New York, NY : HBO Home Video, [2015]
Copyright Date: 2015
Branch Call Number: BES
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (135 minutes) : sound, colour ; 4 3/4 inches
digital,optical,surround,Dolby digital 5.1
video file,DVD video,region 1


From Library Staff

This 2015 HBO film stars Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, a struggling young blues singer who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today. Bessie Smith was bisexual, and her sexuality is acknowledged and shown in the film.

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Oct 05, 2019

Too much references on homosexuality/ lesbianism for my taste to really enjoy the movie.

Apr 16, 2019

This film gave me one of the first depictions of Bessie Smith (born April 15, 1894?, Chattanooga, Tennessee, U.S.—died September 26, 1937, Clarksdale, Mississippi) [Encyclopedia Britannica], as a person and singer.
Known as "Empress of the Blues," she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in its inaugural class (1980), and she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Outside of a vague reference that Bessie had written some of her own songs, this film did not include any on screen biographical text, letting the viewer know when or how she had died. This film depicts her life from roughly 1913 to 1933, with flash backs of her childhood.
In the 18 min Special feature of this DVD, it has interviews with Queen Latifah (Executive producer), Mo'Nique (Precious: 2009), Dee Rees, the writer and director, talking about the show and how it took over 20 years for this film to be made.
Good production and music with decent acting.

Nov 08, 2018

I love a good biopic and I love Queen Latifah as a screen presence. Excellent casting and music. Not for those who might be offended by the reality of Bessie Smith's life, which included romances with people of both sexes and lots of drinking, but superb portrayals and music.

Jul 18, 2018

Startling, unconventional portrayal of Woman as she is and not just a figment of a society's expectations! Took courage to make this film, and it was done superbly!

Sep 20, 2016

Pretty disgusting film with very unattractive stars portraying the downside of society in a blues setting. Not worth your time.

May 20, 2016

Great performances of Queen Latifah and Mo'nique.
Extraordinary recreation of an époque long gone.
Enjoyable music!

d2013 Mar 17, 2016

The story is a bit scattered but it gives you a glimpse in the life of this famous blues singer. Queen Latifah's is great as Bessie.

Jan 05, 2016

Although I admire Queen Latifah's acting ability, I did not like this movie At All! I am sure there was more to this woman than drinking, violence and sex. Talk about dishonoring Bessie Smith's life...what a shame. Kudo's to Monique, she did an excellent job of the character she portrayed as well. Sorry, but I REALLY was disappointed and saddened by the direction this movie took about this famous jazz singer. :-(

Dec 20, 2015

I could not even stomach the first 30-40 minutes of the movie and turned it off. I really wanted to learn more abut Bessie Smith's life and her contribution to music, but not about all the lesbian affairs. I guess I will be looking for other ways of finding out about her. This movie is NOT for the faint at heart, that's for sure.

Nov 23, 2015

Bessie Smith's story and her music needed to be highlighted in the 21st century, and I'm glad that it was. The HBO film falls into some bio-pic clichés and doesn't match the caliber of films like "Get On Up" or La Vie en Rose." Having said that, the acting is terrific and features some of the finest actors from HBO series including The Wire and Treme. Rather controversially, the film doesn't end with Smith's death which left me feeling a little incomplete, especially since she died soon after the ending of the film's narrative. Certainly worth watching.

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