Top Ten Divas on Film
In a wonderful coincidence, two of the top leading ladies of song of the twentieth century in Loretta Lynn and Diana Ross will be performing at Hard Rock Live in the coming weeks.
Their musical styles couldn't be more different. Lynn is known as a plain-spoken, country-singing woman of the people who wrote her own songs and played her own guitar. Ross is, to most, a glamorous disco queen whose group the Supremes helped Motown become the hit factory it's remembered as today.
But the two women have one other similarity, they were both inspirations for Academy Award winning movies. In their honor, we bring you to this list of the top ten divas on film.
This 2006 movie based on the story of the Supremes had Beyonce in the Diana Ross role. A little too cheesy for my tastes, the Academy Awards disagreed, giving Jennifer Hudson a best supporting actress Oscar and Eddie Murphy a best supporting actor nomination.
9. Nico Icon
This 1995 documentary isn't high on production value as it feels like a PBS show, but any insight into the German chanteuse who sang with the Velvet Underground is greatly appreciated.
8. The Runaways
This 2010 biopic about 1970s jailbait rockers the Runaways is a pleasant enough manner in which to idle away a couple of hours. Kristen Stewart plays Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning is Cherie Currie, but Michael Shannon steals the show as a scumball mastermind, Kim Fowley.
7. Sweet Dreams
No, this is not a movie about Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics. It's about an even better singer who sang a tune with that title, Patsy Cline. Jessica Lange was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for lip synching to Cline's songs in this 1985 flick. But there's no point in deriding her for that. No one's voice comes close to Patsy's.
6. What's Love Got to Do With It
Based on Tina Turner's autobiography, this 1993 bio-pic portrayed her husband Ike Turner as one of the most sadistic villains in movie history. Angela Bassett was nominated for her performance as Tina as was Laurence Fishburne for best supporting actor as the evil Ike.
5. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
It's very difficult to find Todd Haynes 1987 masterpiece, but you will be pleasantly surprised by how powerful it is. He uses Barbie dolls to recount the wasting away of the easy-listening staple Karen Carpenter from anorexia.
4. 20 Feet From Stardom
This past summer's documentary about background singers highlights the divas who never got to be divas. Darlene Love gets attention for singing back-up in all those great Phil Spector and Motown hits while also shining a spotlight on the woman who made Gimme Shelter, Merry Clayton.
3. Walk The Line
Sure the movie is about Johnny Cash, but the song the title of the movie got its name from was written for June Carter Cash. Reese Witherspoon who portrayed June in this 2005 won a best supporting actress Oscar for her dignified portrayal.
2. Lady Sings The Blues
Diana Ross shows up again, this time as the actress portraying the diva, Billy Holiday. Ross' drug addled, sanity bending rendition of Holiday earned her a nomination for best actress at the 1973 Academy Awards. The movie's also notable for featuring one of comedian Richard Pryor's few serious roles as Holiday's piano man and confidante.
1. Coal Miner's Daughter
Such a great movie about Loretta Lynn making it to the heights of Nashville while still being a devoted wife, and mother of four by the time she was 19. Subtly played by Sissy Spacek who won the 1980 best actress Oscar as she did justice to Lynn's tremendous voice.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.