SURVIVAL BEGAN WITH A SONG.
Based on a draft written twenty years earlier by playwright Horton Foote, this TV movie tells the story of blues singer Bessie Smith and how her career began in the 1910s. Over the years, a shaky marriage with a security guard, infidelity and booze caused her problems; the film also puts emphasis on Bessie’s bisexuality and how racism dominated the early record industry. Entertaining, although much is familiar in the story of an artist’s ups and downs and the film is weaker in its second half. Still, Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique are wonderful as the headstrong Bessie and her mentor, a domineering Ma Rainey.
2015-U.S. Made for TV. 112 min. Color. Directed by Dee Rees. Cast: Queen Latifah (Bessie Smith), Michael Kenneth Williams (Jack Gee), Khandi Alexander (Viola), Mo’Nique, Mike Epps, Tory Kittles… Oliver Platt, Charles S. Dutton.
Trivia: Co-executive produced by Latifah.
Emmy: Outstanding Television Movie.