Queen Latifah will be portraying Bessie Smith, the “Empress of the Blues” and one of the most influential and successful blues personalities of the 20th century, it was widely reported Tuesday. The movie will be aired on HBO, and will be called Blue Goose Hollow, named for the area in Tennessee where Smith was born and raised.
The movie will be directed and written by Dee Rees, with Latifah starring as Smith. Production has reportedly been slated for June, 2014.
While still a teenager, Bessie Smith began singing professionally in a minstrel show in the early 20th century with then-unknown Ma Rainey. Her popularity as a singer soared and after she signed with Columbia Records in 1923, she became the highest paid African-American of the era, often riding in her own train car. She appeared singing on film in 1929’s St. Louis Blues, and sang duets with Louis Armstrong that continue to be critically acclaimed. Tragically, Smith died at 43 years old in Clarksdale, Mississippi after a car accident on Highway 61.
In 1994, Smith was honored with a U.S. postage stamp, and in 1989, was posthumously given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.
This is the first time Smith’s life will be portrayed in film.