Berry Gordy spent almost 20 years building and creating an empire and the last 20 years getting credit for the landmark pieces of entertainment he oversaw. A behind-the-scenes look at "Lady Sings the Blues" continues that m.o. as the film's participants and a few talking heads discuss the film's importance in the black community.

Berry Gordy spent almost 20 years building and creating an empire and the last 20 years getting credit for the landmark pieces of entertainment he oversaw. A behind-the-scenes look at “Lady Sings the Blues” continues that m.o. as the film’s participants and a few talking heads discuss the film’s importance in the black community, Gordy’s vision and, ultimately, the role “Lady” has had in changing views about films starring black actors but made for a wider audience.

In the featurette, star Diana Ross comes clean about her film debut, explaining that she “made it my story, not Billie Holiday’s,” while Billy Dee Williams discusses his luck in landing the role.Gordy teams up with director Sidney Furie and manager Shelly Berger on the commentary, the bulk of which focuses on business aspects rather than artistic choices. Berger’s participation is a bit of a mystery — he managed the Temptations and once did the same for Diane Dors, an actress considered for the Holiday role — but thankfully he doesn’t say much. Gordy and Furie discuss their awkward relationship with Paramount, Gordy’s purchase of the film, how Suzanne de Passe went from giving notes on the production to becoming a co-screenwriter, and, of course, they discuss Ross and her career before and after. It makes for an interesting study in how a film made by outsiders struggled with established players and wound up blazing a trail that went in and around the studio system.

Lady Sings the Blues Collector's Edition

Nov. 8; Single disc: $14.99

Production

A Paramount Home Video and Berry Gordy release of the 1972 film by Sidney Furie.

Cast

With: Diana Ross, Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor.
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