New Billie Holiday biopic casts her in new light

The United States vs Billie Holiday, a biopic on Billie Holiday’s life with plenty of grit and glamour that the singer was known for is set to hit the cinemas on April 22.

The film also lays out the hypocrisies behind the US’ protracted War on Drugs and how she was caught in its headlights, according to, which goes on to write the the agent of her destruction was Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), the newly installed chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.

Based on Johann Hanri’s Chasing the Scream, the book on which this screenplay is based, Anslinger had a visceral hatred of jazz. He couldn’t do as he really wanted and round up the whole of the country’s population of jazz musicians, so Holiday would do. Beloved by both black and white audiences, she was ideal for his purposes.

Singer Andra Day, in her first acting role, the website writes, does more than catch the smoky essence of Holiday’s voice complete with the contradictory impulses of the woman behind it.

Daniels and his collaborator, playwright Suzan-Lori Parkes, only touch on the horrors of Holiday’s childhood with an awkwardly staged flashback but the bald facts are enough to explain why she chose to look for solace in drugs.

The story’s unlikeliest aspect is the role played by Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), a Narcotics Bureau agent assigned to her case because he’s black. Equipped with charm, looks and a love of jazz, he takes on the job because he’s ambitious and because he’s seen the damage done by addiction but as time goes on, he becomes her friend, then her lover, even though she’s aware of who he is.

But Holiday does get the last word. It’s the best line in the picture, according to, and it comes right at the end when she tells Anslinger that his grandchildren will be singing Strange Fruit long after she’s gone. I hope so: it’s lost none of its impact, or its pertinence.

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