The 2019 documentary about the life of the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald will be broadcast by the BBC later this month. Ella: Just One of Those Things airs on BBC2 at 9.30pm BST on 30 May.
The film is directed by Leslie Woodhead and produced by Reggie Nadelson for Eagle Rock Films. It portrays Ella in a new light with never-before-seen images, unheard interviews, archive material and performance footage. It shows her as “tough, thoughtful, funny, a dazzling musical innovator.” It also sheds light on her commitment to the Civil Rights movement and the inner conflicts unknown to her adoring audiences.
Ella: Just One of Those Things documents her appearance at a talent content at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem, NY in 1934. Aged 15, she was initially booed by the audience. But she won them over by switching from a dance routine to a song. Thus started a peerless career that lasted into the 1990s.
Documenting Ella’s battles
Ella’s experiences with shocking personal racism are documented in the film. It also describes her struggle to reconcile her desire for adoring audiences with a yearning for a domestic life with her husband and son. Fitzgerald died in 1996 at the age of 79.
The programme boasts a remarkable cast of contributors, featuring interviews with Tony Bennett, Jamie Cullum, Laura Mvula, Johnny Mathis, Smokey Robinson, Cleo Laine, Andre Previn, Norma Miller, Patti Austin, Izsak Perlman, Margo Jefferson and Will Friedwald. There’s also a rare interview with Ray Brown Jr, her son from her second marriage to bass player Ray Brown.
The film is narrated by actress/singer Sharon D. Clarke. As British jazz notable Cullum says, “her music is one of the reasons it’s worth being on this planet.” Adds much-admired vocalist Mvula: “She made it seem anything was possible.”