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Bessie (2015)

TV-MA | | Biography, Drama, Music | TV Movie 16 May 2015
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1:31 | Trailer
The story of legendary blues performer Bessie Smith, who rose to fame during the 1920s and '30s.

Director:

Dee Rees

Writers:

Dee Rees (screenplay), Christopher Cleveland (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 23 wins & 45 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Khandi Alexander ... Viola
Tika Sumpter ... Lucille
Queen Latifah ... Bessie Smith
Mike Epps ... Richard
Michael Kenneth Williams ... Jack Gee
Oliver Platt ... Carl Van Vechten
Bryan Greenberg ... John Hammond
Charles S. Dutton ... William 'Pa' Rainey
Mo'Nique ... Ma Rainey
Tory Kittles ... Clarence
Joe Knezevich ... Frank Walker
Terence Rosemore ... Detroit Theater Manager
Jeremie Harris ... Langston Hughes
Alkoya Brunson ... Swarm Boy #2
L. Warren Young ... Sharkish Man
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Storyline

The story of legendary blues performer Bessie Smith, who rose to fame during the 1920s and '30s.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Queen brings Bessie back to life.

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Certificate:

TV-MA | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 May 2015 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bessie See more »

Filming Locations:

Olde Town Conyers, Georgia, USA

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Queen Latifah's topless scene in front of the mirror shows her real breasts. A body double was not used. See more »

Quotes

Bessie Smith: No yellow bitch in my show!
See more »


Soundtracks

Sea Lion Woman
Traditional
Performed by Tamar-kali
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Feels like a TV movie
12 February 2017 | by ReganRebeccaSee all my reviews

I knew nothing about Bessie Smith going into this movie. And after watching it I feel like I still know next to nothing. Bessie is the story of legendary '20s and '30s blues singer Bessie Smith. We meet Smith as she is starting out, playing small time nightclubs. She has a great voice and plenty of ambition, but she's going nowhere fast. That is until she spies Ma Rainey (Mo'Nique, stealing all the scenes) and learns to build her act up.

The problem with the film is that it tries to cover too much ground. It covers about 20 years in Bessie's life, from her start working in small clubs, to her success and decline and eventual comeback. The lack of focus makes the film feel abrupt as their are just too many characters and not enough of a through line as people come in and out of Bessie's life.

Queen Latifah does a good job as Smith. But ironically she ends up completely upstaged by Mo'nique even though in real life the reverse is true. Mo'nique has a small role and only appears in about the first quarter of a movie, but she simply owns every inch of the screen when she's on it. She has a beautiful voice, you can tell she's a singer just by the way she speaks, and a commanding swagger. Once she leaves she takes a lot of excitement with her. She leaves the impression that she could have handled a film about Ma Rainey. The rest of the cast is solid. Tika Sumpter looks gorgeous in a mostly nothing role, playing Smith's long time companion. Michael K. Williams manages to make a solid impression as a brash bodyguard turned lover as Smith's husband.

The real star of the show are the costumes. Note perfect, sumptuous and gorgeous they make every scene appealing and are always photographed to perfection. Even while the rest of the movie disappoints the clothing is always there to give something for the eye to enjoy.


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