Acting was secondary to Adelaide Hall's main career, which was as a singer. Still, as a screen actress she appeared in one of the most celebrated fantasy films of the 20th century, and her career was bridged by stage and film associations that kept her busy from her twenties until well past her 80th year. Adelaide Hall achieved her greatest recognition as a singer between the two world wars, introducing the songs "Creole Love Call" (with Duke Ellington's orchestra) and "I Can't Give to Anything but Love," among other notable achievements. She made her Broadway debut in the chorus of Shuffle Along in 1921, and was later in the cast of Runnin' Wild. Her association with Ellington began when the two were booked on the same bill by the Keith-Orpheum theater chain, and she began recording with his band in 1927. Hall returned to Broadway in the Blackbirds revue, where she introduced the song "I Can't Give You Anything but Love." A series of performances in London led to Hall becoming established there as a recording artist in her own right, beginning in 1931. Hall ultimately moved to Paris, and then, after a return to the United States, back to London after she, her husband, and her mother were almost burned out of the house that the two had bought in the otherwise all-white community of Larchmont, NY. She was second only to Josephine Baker in popularity in the French capital, and she and her husband opened their own club in Paris in the mid-'30s. The couple moved to London at the end of the decade at the behest of legendary stage producer Charles B. Cochran, who cast Hall in a play called The Sun Never Sets. Her and her husband ended up making their home permanently in London. In less than a year, they had a new club and were entertaining guests such as her longtime friend Fats Waller, with whom she also recorded.
Hall's one feature film appearance as an actress took place in London in 1939, when she was cast in Alexander Korda's production of The Thief of Bagdad, starring Sabu and Conrad Veidt. Hall played the nurse of the princess portrayed by June Duprez, and got to sing a lullaby written for the film by Miklos Rozsa -- given her association with jazz, her singing of the song (the melody of which was a centerpiece of the score) was surprisingly operatic. Hall spent a part of the war entertaining troops throughout the British Empire and later in Europe. She continued working as singer after World War II and appeared in a West End production of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate in 1957, before she returned to America to work in the Broadway production of Jamaica, starring Lena Horne. She worked on stage as an actress, and also did poetry readings alongside Peter O'Toole and Dame Sybil Thorndyke, and performed in cabaret in the 1970s. In 1984, just at the point when Hall would have been expected to be slowing down and receding into retirement, however, the Francis Ford Coppola movie The Cotton Club opened, and suddenly she found herself in nearly as much demand as she'd been 50 years earlier, as one of the very few survivors from the ranks of those who'd worked at the actual Cotton Club. Hall was the recipient of a steady stream of requests for interviews and performances well into her eighties as a result, though she'd given up performing by the middle of that decade.