Ella Fitzgerald debuted at an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in 1934. She sang Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection” and won $25. She went on win 13 Grammys, sell more than 40 million albums and be proclaimed “The First Lady of Jazz.” Eagle Rock Entertainment will present Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things this spring. Directed by Leslie Woodhead along with producer Reggie Nadelson, the film will be screened in select cinemas beginning April 3.
A pillar of American music history, Ella is an international icon. Her tone, delivery, and scat improvisations laid the groundwork for generations of vocalists. Just One Of Those Things presents the artist through an intimate lens, “through all of her moments of triumph and joy, delivering a clear picture of the woman Ella was both on and off the stage,” according to the press statement.
The singer “used her talent and intelligence to break down seemingly impenetrable barriers,” according to the statement. Her accomplishments in both the jazz world and the civil rights movement won her several non-musical honors, including the NAACP Equal Justice Award and American Black Achievement Award.
Just One Of Those Things explores the resilient, humorous, and witty woman who spun her rough past into pristine musical gold, and examines how the singer developed her tenacity. “Losing her mother at the age of 15, Ella endured life in abusive reform schools before escaping to the streets of Harlem, penniless and alone during The Great Depression,” reads the press statement. “In 1934, she won a talent contest at the famed Apollo Theater — a moment that changed the course of her life. Within months, she was a star.”
Ella was a very private person outside the spotlight, “conflicted with reconciling her public image and hunger for adoring audiences with a longing for domestic life with her husband and son,” the statement read. The documentary follows Ella as she endures these conflicts while carving her revolutionary path in music.
She pioneered a prosperous career amidst immense racism, poverty, sexism, and body image criticism. Fitzgerald made her film debut as Ruby in the 1942 Abbott and Costello comedy western Ride ‘Em Cowboy. Ella forged ahead as a female bandleader, working with such contemporaries as Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman.
The documentary features never-before-seen footage. It also includes interviews with Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, and Norma Miller, and a rare conversation with her son, Ray Brown Jr.
Ella Fitzgerald: Just One Of Those Things will screen in select cinemas beginning April 3.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.