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Queen Latifah scores lead in Bessie Smith biopic

Bessie Smith
Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

The Queen is riding high these days as host of a hit talk show as well as mastering producing other television productions. Now Queen Latifah can add another starring role under her belt. The 44-year-old film star and music icon from New Jersey is set to play legendary blues Singer Bessie Smith in an HBO biopic.

Production is slated to begin in June in Atlanta. The movie will be called ‘Blue Goose Hollow’ and directed by Dee Rees. It promises to tell the life story of Smith and put to rest some of the myths that have been brewing over the past decades.

Smith, known as The Empress of the Blues, was one of the biggest blues singers and highest paid acts during the 20’s and 30’s. Her career suffered a setback during the Great Depression and just as she was planning a comeback, Smith tragically lost her life in 1937 due severe injuries from a horrific car crash.

One of the rumors is that Smith’s first husband, Jack Gee, was impressed by her income but not the life of show business or her alleged bisexuality. Though the two never divorced, they did part ways and Smith lived with her common-law husband, Richard Morgan, until her death. Morgan was an uncle of band leader and jazz percussionist Lionel Hampton.

On September 26, 1937, the singer was critically injured while traveling along U.S. Route 61 between Memphis, Tennessee and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Morgan, who was driving, tried to avoid hitting a truck but could not and ended up hitting the rear of the truck at a high rate of speed. Smith took the full brunt of the impact. Morgan escaped without injuries.

There is much speculation as well as actual accounts detailing what happened next including another car plowing into the accident scene, Smith not being accepted and treated at a white hospital, her arm having to be amputated, etc. Bessie Smith’s life story should make for interesting viewing and an educational look back into history. Queen Latifah is sure to add the flair and richness the story deserves.

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