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Anita O'day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

  NR Closed Captioning

Ian McCrudden & Robbie Cavolina

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Plot Summary

Anita O’Day was one of the greatest of American jazzsingers and this is her astonishing story—a journey of survival, and above all the endurance of her talent, told in a number of frank interviews with her and with those who knew her. Her career was long and eventful, spanning seven decades, her last album recorded when she was 84. This documentary of a legend was co-directed by Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden who produced with Melissa Davis. Anita O’Day only ever wanted to be a singer and the film showcases performances that date back to the 50s with such artists as Gene Krupa, Roy Eldridge, Stan Kenton, Louis Armstrong and Hoagy Carmichael. She is shown teaching Billy Taylor how to be a jazz vocalist. She speaks candidly, always candidly, with Dick Cavett, Bryant Gumble and David Frost, with clips from interviews done on 60 Minutes and CBS This Morning. Bert Stern, commenting on his experience filming Anita perform Sweet Georgia Brown for his film Jazz on a Summer’s Day, said it was the greatest rendition of the song ever made. Anita was a musical genius and pioneer who broke reverse race barriers. She was commonly regarded as one of the top female artists of her time, together with Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. The film portrays her as a woman who lived her life the way she wanted without ever looking back. She speaks openly about how she had to overcome great adversities, including a 20-year addiction to heroin and alcohol. She chose never to have children and married for only a brief period. She lived an often lonely life that was sustained only by her passion for music. Personalities talk about her quirky personality, while jazz critics and her few still living contemporaries speak of her extraordinary talent and how amazing it is that she continued to sing for so long. The film shows Anita on tour in Europe well into her eighties and her making that final recording, shortly before her death, the death of an icon.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews

TOMATOMETER

100%
  • Reviews Counted: 29
  • Fresh: 29
  • Rotten: 0
  • Average Rating: 8.0/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: The portrait of Anita O'Day that emerges in this documentary is of a woman who always lived by her own rules. – Stephen Holden, New York Times, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: Force of personality and terrific vintage performance clips make a keeper of Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer. – Dennis Harvey, Variety, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: Alive with improvisational energy and rejecting the conventional biographical format, the film pursues ideas and feelings rather than chronology as it scats through an archival wealth of interviews with O'Day and some of her most inspired performances. – Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: An engaging if less than revelatory documentary. – Sura Wood, Hollywood Reporter, Jun 24, 2010

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

100% on Rotten Tomatos.

I'll tell you, this has to be the most entertaining, touching and truly remarkable music fil about a real American Master. It is great and I guarantee that you will love it. I give it as gifts I loved it THAT much. Anita O'Day is fantastic. 10 stars.

Anita O'day: The Life of a Jazz Singer
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  • $14.99
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Released: 2014

Customer Ratings