READ MORE: Watch: Things Go Downhill Fast for Queen Latifah in Trailer for Dee Rees’ ‘Bessie’ on HBO
Take a trip to the Roaring ’20s with “Bessie,” a biopic about the life of acclaimed jazz singer Bessie Smith. From the official HBO synopsis: “With a story by Dee Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” who became one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and is an enduring icon today.”
Smith achieved widespread fame as one of the highest paid black singers in the ’20s and ’30s, but led a turbulent life fraught with infidelity and a difficult marriage. She also pioneered the way for queer women in jazz with her openness about her bisexuality, which pervaded both her onstage and offstage presence.
The film was helmed by “Pariah” director Dee Rees, with a screenplay by Rees and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois. Queen Latifah stars in the title role; the film also features Michael Kenneth Williams as Smith’s first husband Jack Gee, and Mo’Nique as her mentor Ma Rainey.
“Bessie” premieres May 16, 2015 on HBO.