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Movie Preview: 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday'

Tormented by the Feds because of her drug use and song choices, Billie Holiday is a tragic figure in the jazz movement of the '30s and '40s. The singer was just 44 when she died in 1959.

A new movie, The United States. vs, Billie Holiday, directed by Lee Daniels and starring Andra Day, depicts Holiday as a civil right activist at a time when racism ruled America. Everything changed when, in 1939, she decided to perform "Strange Fruit," a song about Blacks being lynched. The FBI pursued Holiday from that point on, arresting her several times for heroin possession. She spent a year in jail in 1947.

Garrett Hedlund, who plays Narcotics Bureau chief Harry J. Anslinger, says in the promo feature below:

"He wanted to make an example out of her. No matter how hard he tried, she still gets up and she wins the hearts of the crowd and this infuriates him."

James Erskine's 2020 documentary BIllie tells a similar story. 

The United States vs. Billie Holiday begins streaming on Hulu on February 26.

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.