Latifah Plays Bessie Smith

Almost all biopics about musical legends end with an early death, mostly due to drug or alcohol abuse. Blues legend Bessie Smith, portrayed by Queen Latifah in “Bessie” (HBO, May 16th), died in a car crash in 1937, when she was 43. The most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and ’30s, one of the all-time greatest (right up there with Billie Holiday) live performers in American history, Bessie was bisexual. Which is alluded to in the new trailer — pretty ironic considering that Latifah is an in-the-closet lesbian. “Bessie” also heralds the return to the screen, after a five-year absence, of Mo’Nique.

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