BILLIE HOLIDAY: THE LIFE AND ARTISTRY OF LADY DAY (DVD) Image

This documentary, which is being released without any credits (did it direct itself?) and with an unidentified British male narrator, covers the brilliant recording career and troubled life of the extraordinary jazz vocalist. But don’t expect too much biographical depth – with a running time of roughly a half-hour, this documentary presents the shallow insight of a Wikipedia article.

What is present, however, are selections of Holiday’s film and television appearances. Watching Lady Day perform her standards “God Bless the Child,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do” and especially “Strange Fruit” (from a late-life TV guest shot) makes this worthwhile. Even better is a selection of her musical numbers from “New Orleans,” a crummy 1947 RKO feature that was Holiday’s only Hollywood acting gig.

Thank goodness this DVD enables the viewer to zoom in on her show-stopping numbers, especially the astonishing “Farewell to Storyville,” without having to put up with the clumsiness of the otherwise forgettable film.

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