The defining moments in Anita O'Day's long career occurred during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival where she swung her way through "Sweet Georgia Brown," captured the hearts of millions in Bert Stern's Jazz on a Summer's Day, and found herself on the cover of Time magazine-undoubtedly assisted by a little black frock and a wide-brimmed, feathered straw hat. The circumstances surrounding these magical occasions comprise some of the many amusing stories she tells in Robbie Cavolina and Ian McCrudden's hugely enjoyable, deeply moving tribute to the jazz diva completed just weeks before her death in November 2006. Footage of interviews with the feisty, supremely witty lady herself are skillfully interwoven with appreciations and anecdotes from her many friends and colleagues, including legendary arrangers Bill Holman, Johnny Mandel, Buddy Bregman and Russ Garcia. Terrific performance clips illustrate her formative years with Gene Krupa (her ground-breaking interracial stage routine with Roy Eldridge on "Let me off Uptown"), her period with Stan Kenton ("...the boys drank water and read books between sets-the other side of life!"), the bad years of drug addiction and her eventual success as one of the handful of truly original jazz vocalists. Just observe her exacting precision in probing the melodic substructure to "Honeysuckle Rose"-quite wonderful.
Director's Statement Collapse
We had been talking for a long time about doing a documentary on Anita, then in the summer of '04 Robbie said he was going to make an album and go on tour with her. We agreed this would be great to document, and along with producer Melissa Davis, we raised some $$, and hit the road for London, Paris, and NYC… Being on the road with Anita was a trip, in more ways than one. Even at 85 the gal was as adventuresome and fun as ever. The shows were well attended and fans couldn't get enough of her. We got back to Los Angeles to start assembling the footage, and proceeded to do hours of interviews with Anita, seminal composers, musicians, jazz historians, and of course friends (those still alive!). 120 hours of footage was combined with rare and vintage performance footage from throughout her 50 years. We began to try and piece it together. We culled and mulled for 9 months before we had something approximating a film. But even as of the first cut (3hr +!!) we felt we'd succeeded at making a movie that was a document yes, but also a testament, a jazz "how to" film, and a portrait of the life and work of a remarkable artist.
About the Director(s)Collapse
IAN MCCRUDDEN got his start at Stanford University, where he received a Golden Medal for writing and directing. He has gone on to direct several films, including Islander (starring Philip Baker Hall), Trespassers, The Big Day (featuring Julianna Margulies), Mr. Smith Gets a Hustler and Trailer: The Movie. He has directed numerous original plays in the U.S. and abroad and authored several screenplays. McCrudden lives in Los Angeles with his wife Annica, and two boys, Miles and Elton.
ROBBIE CAVOLINA is a Grammy-winning artist and filmmaker. An ongoing collaborator with Joni Mitchell, he won a Grammy for designing her album covers and directed the 1996 documentary Joni Mitchell: Hits and Misses. Cavolina is a graduate of the Otis Art Institute of Parson School of Design. As a fine artist, his work has been displayed in museums in Los Angeles, New York and Cologne, Germany.