HBO has released a new trailer for its Bessie Smith biopic, helmed by Pariah director Dee Rees. The film, which looks and sounds gorgeous, digs into Smith’s beginnings in vaudeville and chronicles her ascension during jazz’s golden age, as well as the increasing turmoil of her personal life. In an impeccable bit of casting, Queen Latifah takes on the role of the jazz icon.
The Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated singer-actress hasn’t had a role worthy of her prodigious allure in a while — too many people of a certain age remember her as the lady who taught Steve Martin how to talk nasty to women (who are represented by a statue). But don’t forget that this is the woman who made Last Holiday not only bearable, but borderline joyous. Smith recorded more than 160 songs for Columbia and worked with some of the most renowned jazz artists of the ‘20s and ‘30s, including Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins. Sadly, the Great Depression killed her career, though her legacy has never waned. Michael K. Williams plays Smith’s husband, and Mo’Nique, who snagged an Oscar for her petrifying turn as a monstrous mother in Lee Daniels’s Precious, plays blues legend Ma Rainey. The outstanding supporting cast includes Charles S. Dutton, Oliver Platt, and Mike Epps.