Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (2007)



Critic Consensus: This rich documentary chronicles the highs and lows of one of the medium's finest singers, utilizing remarkable archive footage and insightful interviews with O'Day herself.

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Movie Info

Before her death in November 2006 at age 86, Anita O'Day, one of jazz's most complex and rhythmic vocalists, smiled on the music world for six decades. This film portrait captures all the magic that took this sly Chicago native, a white girl who could hold her own against Billie and Ella, from Gene Krupa's bandstand to solo stardom. Film footage of Anita O'Day's appearance at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, immortalized in the 1960 documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day and excerpted here, may be the defining moment of the post-bebop era.
Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts , Special Interest
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Critic Reviews for Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (14)

The incomparable songbird is finally given her due in one of the greatest music documentaries I've ever seen.

Full Review… | December 12, 2008
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

A close-up look at the strange alchemy that is jazz singing -- singing at its most sublime.

Full Review… | December 5, 2008
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Robbie Cavalina and Ian McCrudden's loving tribute to the great singer orchestrates archival footage, late-in-life interviews and some spectacular music into one of the better bio-pics of recent years.

October 29, 2008
Top Critic

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer chooses from all the existing materials, and is invaluable.

Full Review… | October 9, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

A gentle, swinging film that pieces together her extraordinary life story from vintage performance clips and various interviews done over the years.

Full Review… | September 26, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Alive with improvisational energy and rejecting the conventional biographical format, the film pursues ideas and feelings rather than chronology as it scats through an archival wealth of interviews with O'Day and some of her most inspired performances.

Full Review… | August 22, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

Fascinating documentary on a great jazz singer who should be more well known. It was a tough life for Anita but the pluck which saw her through many hard times, some admittingly of her own making, is showcased front and center by reminiscences from the lady herself and backed by the people who either knew her when or admire her now.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


An uncompromising and brutally honest biographical look at one of the great artists the U. S. has produced, shot in an unusual cinematic style. She was a woman for whom there was no difference between singing and life. Like Piaf or Calas, she was born and driven to sing. The movie is worth seeing for its style, even if the viewer is not a jazz fan or even may not have known who she was -- and if not, the movie will serve as a real treat of an introduction! The only drawback is that there are mere seconds-long snippets of several of her greatest performances - A problem I hope will be corrected by the release of a soundtrack featuring full-length performances of all the songs featured in the movie. An uplifting nine of ten stars. mh - Scottsdale, AZ

Michael Hanrahan
Michael Hanrahan

[font=Comic Sans MS]"[/font][font=Century Gothic]Anita O'Day - The Life of a Jazz Singer" is a breezy and insightful documentary about the legendary jazz singer. Her life had more than its share of ups and downs including two marriages and a 15-year heroin addiction which she survived, living to the age of 87.(I don't know why jazz musicians suffered so much from drug addiction but maybe it had something to do with the freedom that the music gave to their lives during a very conformist period. At a certain point, freedom cuts both ways...) Thankfully, all of that is simply touched on. What the documentary is mostly interested in is her professional career, as she moved from larger to smaller bands, giving her much more room for improvisation. Along with interviews she gave before she died in 2006, her story is told by experts and her contemporaries. And that is where this film stands out by explaining her vocal talents and where she places alongside other great jazz singers, one commentator explaining her voice was like another instrument of the band. The footage of her singing, especially the famous performance from the Newport Jazz Festival seen in the concert film, "Jazz on a Summer's Day," testifies to this.[/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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