Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer Image
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76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 12 Critics What's this?

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  • Summary: The film is a thorough investigation of the life and times of the great jazz vocalist, Anita O’Day. Filmmakers Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden dedicated many years to capturing the engaging story of O’Day’s rise to fame: following her career from her youthful days singing alongside greatsThe film is a thorough investigation of the life and times of the great jazz vocalist, Anita O’Day. Filmmakers Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden dedicated many years to capturing the engaging story of O’Day’s rise to fame: following her career from her youthful days singing alongside greats like Hoagy Carmichael, Gene Krupa, Stan Kenton, Louis Armstrong and Roy Eldridge to darker times in her life; drug addiction, multiple marriages, abortions, arrests and finally, the triumphant completion of her last album in 2006, shortly before her death at 87. Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 12
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 12
  3. Negative: 0 out of 12
  1. How was this careless, self-destructive human rhythm machine able to outlast almost all her peers? Maybe the vitality of the jazz she made kept her alive. She was one tough lady.
  2. Reviewed by: Howard Reich
    88
    Swinging gleefully on a sun-soaked afternoon, crafting strangely intoxicating phrases, O’Day could do no wrong on that afternoon at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island in 1958.
  3. 88
    Here was a great artist. She enjoyed her life. She didn't complain at the time, she didn't complain when she went cold turkey, she didn't complain in her 80s.
  4. Reviewed by: Joel Selvin
    75
    A loving biographical tribute.
  5. Reviewed by: Sura Wood
    70
    An engaging if less than revelatory documentary.
  6. Reviewed by: Jim Ridley
    70
    A good deal livelier than the usual music-doc embalming.
  7. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    63
    Offers what her fans came to expect from the "Jezebel of Jazz": great music.

See all 12 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Jun 18, 2014
    6
    Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer: 6 out of 10: I had no idea who Anita O'Day was when I rented this film. I like Jazz well enough andAnita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer: 6 out of 10: I had no idea who Anita O'Day was when I rented this film. I like Jazz well enough and enjoy having it as background music, but I am hardly what one describes as an aficionado.

    Since viewing this film, I have watched the wonderful documentary "Jazz on a Summer's Day" and have downloaded some fine Anita O'Day jazz albums.

    Therefore, from one point of view, the documentary is a stunning success. It got me interested enough in its subject, for me to take actions after viewing.

    The film however suffers from uneven interviews and presentation. Film quality is all over the map and some of O'Day's last interviews were clearly filmed by folks unfamiliar with the workings of a motion picture camera.

    Even more disappointing is the poor sound quality of many of the musical tracks and the lack of sampling from her albums.

    You know if you have a 16-year heroin addiction and four failed marriages and you still manage to live until 87 despite grinding poverty and botched healthcare, you are the definition one tough bird. Unfortunately that also signifies most of your contemporaries are long dead. Many of the war stories as a result, tend to be second hand at best.

    The film does contain one wonderful non-musical highlight. In a mid-seventies interview a young Bryant Gumbel states to O'Day "Your life story involves rape, failed relationships, drugs, and multiple abortions". O'Day's that is just they way it went down response is priceless.

    Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer is a decent film but I would recommend renting Jazz on a Summer's Day first. That concert seems to capture the magic better than anything else I have seen.
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