USA vs. Billie Holiday True Story: How Much Really Happened

Billie Holiday was one of the pivotal jazz and swing singers of the early 20th century, and the new Hulu movie is based on her rich and true history.

The titular character of United States against Billie Holidays He was one of the most influential jazz musicians of his day, and this recent Hulu biopic captures the sometimes incredible true story of his life. Holiday’s iconic song, “Strange Fruit,” is at the center of the film, and the brutal depiction of the lynching serves as his lasting legacy in the long-standing fight for civil rights. But the film includes much more than just the song, weaving their personal relationships, tumultuous upbringing, and struggles with addiction into a sprawling narrative. Some of it is a Hollywood embellishment, but much of it is surprisingly historically accurate.

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Billie Holiday was born in 1915 to a single couple, her father left the scene shortly after. Despite being a victim of sexual abuse and trafficking before the age of 14, she began a flourishing musical career and recorded her debut single at 18. Her distinctive vocal style, similar to improv jazz, helped her rise to stardom when, on In 1939, he first performed the song that would become his legacy, “Strange Fruit.” In response to the song’s confrontation with racism in the south, the government set out to delegitimize Holiday and crack down on performances of “Strange Fruit,” using Holiday’s drug habit to tarnish his reputation with the public. He died of cirrhosis in 1959, at the age of 44.

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The movie United States vs. Billie Holiday it goes out of its way to keep up with a life filled with intrigue, causing many to wonder if everything seen on screen is actually based on or added to to make the movie more exciting. Andra Day’s riveting performance in the title role captured the attention of critics and audiences alike, but viewers understandably had questions about the veracity of Jimmy Fletcher (Trevante Rhodes), Harry J. Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), and company, and the other. situations presented by writer Suzan-Lori Parks and director Lee Daniels. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the material is based directly on true history, and much of the research is derived from Johann Hari’s book. Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the Drug War.

Did Billie Holiday have a relationship with an agent from the Federal Office of Narcotics?

Like the recent HBO Max release Judas and the Black Messiah, United States vs. Billie Holiday features a black federal agent who infiltrates the story of a black civil rights activist. This character takes the form of Jimmy Fletcher, an upright and aspirational black man who works with Anslinger to catch Holiday for drug offenses. Although he initially believes he has the right morals, he is later drawn to Holiday’s resilience and humanity, coming to regret his job as he falls in love with her, though some may wonder if Fletcher really existed and, if so, if or not, he actually had a relationship with Holiday.

According to the book the movie is based on, Fletcher was in fact a real person and in fact regretted his role in the manhunt for Holiday at the hands of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Although there is no way to verify if the two shared a sexual relationship, they apparently enjoyed long conversations and became quite close. Also, the scene where Holiday got naked in front of him and his fellow officers is taken directly from Hari’s source text. In fact, the filmmakers omitted their additional challenge: Holiday “pissed off in front of them, daring them to look. “

Was Billie Holiday bisexual?

In United States against Billie Holiday, Talulah Bankhead (Natasha Lyonne) is a close friend of Holiday’s and the two seem to share some kind of sexual tension. Bankhead was an actress, best known for her role in the Alfred Hitchcock film. Lifeboat (1944) and for his supposedly promiscuous sex life. It was widely rumored that she and Holiday shared an intimate relationship, although it is understandable that it is difficult to confirm them due to the danger associated with being away at the time. It has led many to speculate that Billie Holiday was bisexual. Many have accepted this as fact, and while the assumption is not unreasonable, it is almost impossible to say for sure.

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Did the feds arrest Billie Holiday on her deathbed?

As cruel and blatantly corrupt as it may sound, this is actually true. Anslinger and company, including Holiday’s third husband, worked to plant drugs on Holiday while she was dying and arrested her for possession at the hospital. According to BritannicaHoliday begged the hospital for treatment, but they took away the drug methadone, forcing her body to detoxify itself. With his liver function affected by cirrhosis, that was impossible. He died on July 17, 1959. He was 44 years old.

Did Billie Holiday witness the lynching of a relative?

In the film, Holiday and Fletcher enter a dreamlike sequence by taking a tour of Billie’s childhood trauma. At one point, they see a girl crying for her father, who has been lynched. It is suggested in the movie that Holiday’s father was lynched, and that is why Billie recorded “Strange Fruit”. The lyrics to the song were actually written by a Jewish educator from New York named Abel Meeropol, adapted from his poem “Bitter Fruit.” Meeropol was an anti-racist activist who responded to lynchings in the south. Holiday began singing the song in 1939. By lending it his distinctive and authentic musical style and defending his performance at great personal cost, the song became, as history remembers it, his own. Although she did not witness the lynching of a family member, the song resonated with Billie Holiday’s experience as a black woman in America in the early 20th century. He once described how it made him think of his father, who died of a lung disorder after being turned away from a hospital due to racial prejudice. In 1999, Time magazine named it the “Song of the Century.”

Who is real and who is not in United States vs. Billie Holiday

A remarkable number of characters and events represented in United States vs. Billie Holiday they are true to their historical origins. From Fletcher to Anslinger’s ruthless pursuit of Holiday to his death, these all have verifiable roots in history. The only purely made-up character belongs to Leslie Jordan, whose casually racist interviewer Reginald Lord Devine was written for the film as a framing device, although speaking with Variety, Lee Daniels said he based Devine on “a merger of Quentin Crisp and Skip E. Lowe. “Da’Vine Joy and Miss Lawrence also play characters lacking historical records, their confidante and stylist respectively, but the film doesn’t suffer from their inclusion. In total, something similar to Ma Rainey’s black ass, United States vs. Billie Holiday paints a strikingly accurate portrait of a jazz icon’s struggle against a predatory system that sought to contain her.

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  • United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)Release Date: Feb 26, 2021

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