Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “Lady Sings the Blues”

April 15, 2014 ‐ By Deron Dalton

Lady Sings the Blues

The Back Story w/ Jay Weston

Lady Sings the Blues is one of the most critically acclaimed black films and biopics of all time — with five Academy-Award nominations. But have you ever wondered the back story of the successful film about Billie Holiday’s life and career? We got you!

Jay Weston is the man who started it all. Intrigued by Holiday’s life and telling her story,  he, at the time in 1959, was an aspiring movie producer and told Holiday’s agent, Joe Glaser, he wanted to make a film about her life after reading her autobiography. He payed her agent $5,000 a year to the have the option to make the film until 12 years later when the movie was finally made.

Below is a photo from Weston’s Huffington Post back story about the film. But in each slide we break down the story behind the scenes and what it took to make this musical biopic.

Jay Weston on set of the film with Diana Ross.

Jay Weston on set of the film with Diana Ross. Source: HuffPo

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  • Kit23

    In my opinion, the worse thing in this movie is Diana Ross’ acting. She’s terrible! Her voice also sounds nothing like Billie Holiday. I’ve always felt the casting of Ms. Ross was a mistake. Saw the movie again recently and I still stand by my opinion.

  • jusSayi

    Even today–Oscar nomination removed from CHRISTIAN Song & reports of Barry politicking for Best Actress for Diana…does this EVER matter? Diana seriously SHOULD have WON the Oscar AND clearly the Christian Song should have remained in the running. GREAT Movie, Great acting…SOUNDER was also just as DESERVING… Thanks for the backstory!

  • Ms. Kameria

    I absolutely love Lady Sings the Blues. It’s one of my favorite movies.

  • epifani9

    You left out some info…Diana Sands was actually the first one called to be Billie Holliday, but when she was sick, she called on Diahanne Carroll to not only take LSTB, but Claudine as well. Also, Paul Winfield was also called for the role of Louis McKay, but he was doing Sounder. They wanted him especially because he looked EXACTLY like Louis.

  • MiaSara

    The only thing that saves this film is the acting. The obvious “Oscar bait” littered throughout the film keeps it from being a true classic. The fact the we never get a real sense of the power, glamour and success that the real Billie Holliday had leaves a bad taste in my mouth. She was not the loser sitting on the fringes of fame like she was depicted in the movie.

    • Mary Jackson

      Right that’s a hard pill to swallow. Yes she was an addict but there was more to her than that.

  • Julie King

    enjoyed the article…needs better editing

  • Julie King

    enjoyed the article….needs better editing