‘Bessie,’ the HBO movie starring Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, will air on the network on May 16, and we have the trailer for it here. The singer known as ‘The Empress of the Blues’ is powerfully portrayed by the actress and Grammy-winning singer, in this new film about Smith’s life and times.
The film portrays the singer’s emergence as one of the great blues interpreters of all time, and documents her difficult private life as a bisexual woman in a tempestuous marriage. Her estranged husband Jack Gee is played in ‘Bessie’ by Michael Kenneth Williams, widely known and admired for his role as Omar in the hit series ‘The Wire.’
More recently, Williams played the character of Chalky White in another successful series, ‘Boardwalk Empire,’ set in the same era in which Smith came to prominence. Queen Latifah’s previous successes includes the starring role of Matron ‘Mama’ Morton in the Oscar-winning ‘Chicago,’ as well as the film version of ‘Hairspray’ and many others. Her own daytime TV show premiered in 2013. Latifah’s most recent album, marking her return to the hip-hop style in which she first made her name, was 2009’s ‘Persona.’
This Wednesday (15) will mark the 121st anniversary of Smith’s birth, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She died at the age of just 43, from critical injuries in a car accident, in 1937.