When talking about a masterpiece like Lady Sings The Blues, it’s easy to get caught up in the actual story of the life of iconic jazz great, Billie Holiday. But oftentimes, the stories of what happened behind the scenes of the film are usually just as intriguing.
In researching this film, we found out that one of those stories, in particular, came directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. Billy Dee Williams revealed an interesting tidbit of info about a few tense, awkward moments between himself, Diana, and Berry Gordy during filming. Maybe you can already tell where we’re going with this, but let’s continue.
Remember how Billy Dee’s character, “Louis McKay,” was deeply in love with Diana’s character, “Billie Holiday?” Well of course capturing their love for each other also entailed them getting lovey-dovey on camera. The only problem, according to what Billy Dee revealed in the book, Diana Ross: A Biography, was that our man, Berry Gordy, wasn’t cool with the love scenes at all. Although Berry and Diana were supposedly not seeing each other at the time of the filming (although 6 months prior to filming ‘Lady Sings,’ Diana had just given birth to she and Berry’s daughter, Rhonda Ross…that’s a whole ‘notha story), Billy Dee said that didn’t stop Berry from getting jealous, understandably so.
Billy Dee Tells What Happened Between Him, Gordy, & Ross On Set
As a result of his reported jealousy, Berry -who funded the entire movie- did everything he could to cut those kissing scenes short. Those interruptions eventually took a toll on Billy and Diana’s groove. Here’s what Billy Dee had to say about that:
“Well, it was clear to me from the beginning that they [Berry and Diana] had this psychodramatic, complex love affair going on, even though she was married to someone else. I don’t mean they were having sex; everyone knew that was over. But, just because you’re not having sex with a woman doesn’t mean you don’t still feel territorial where she’s concerned, and Berry did.”
Billy Dee continued:
“I think there was only one scene in the whole film where Diana and I really kissed, and Berry made it very tough on us. It sounds silly in retrospect, but he really did not want the kiss to take place. We’d get to that place in rehearsal and he’d stop it. He was saying he wanted the real kiss to take place on camera, but we knew that he just didn’t want the real kiss to make out more than once. Diana was beyond frustrated. “Jesus Christ, Berry,” she said, “it’s only a kiss.” I have to tell you, I truly believed that he had never seen her kiss another man before in his life, and he did not want to see it. So I thought that was kind of sweet.
And kind of weird, too. In the end, we did the kiss, obviously. Diana has the best mouth in show business, and kissing her was…well, magical. An I was only acting. So, after that kiss, i was like, okay- I get it- if this was my woman, no way would I want her kissing another man.” -Quote from Billy Dee Williams in the book, ‘Diana Ross: A Biography by J. Randy Taraborelli’
Diana Ross seemingly had Berry Gordy hooked, and from the sounds of it, Billy Dee got a hit of her sensual spell too (although it was just acting). There’s nothing like a woman who knows how to truly own her sensuality…Berry was obviously worried about his ex-woman sharing that sensuality with anyone else- acting, or no acting.
To Berry’s credit, his worry was justifiable because after Billy Dee said that classic line to Diana, “Do you want my hand to fall off?” women all across America were trying to get a piece of the brotha! Pretty sure Berry didn’t wanna witness his ex falling into that same spell. However, there’s no denying that the chemistry Billy Dee and Diana had in Lady Sings The Blues allowed them to create on-screen magic, catapulting the film into an Old School cult classic. So glad Berry Gordy didn’t sabotage it.
Source & Credit: iloveoldschoolmusic.com