Bessie (2015) Script

We love you, Bessie!

We love you, Bessie!

Hey, Bessie.

I love you! I love you so much!

Bessie! I love you so much!


I love you, Bessie! That was amazing!



Where are you?

Where's my mama?


I want her back! I want my mama back!

Where did she go?

Mama ain't here to save you now.

Your mama dead.

- Where's my mama? - It's your fault Mama dead.

Bessie. Where are you, Mom? Where are you?


You ain't part of the act.

Excuse me! Excuse me!

Excuse me! I gotta get downstairs! I gotta be changing!

Come on back here and put on a good show for me tonight.

I gotta change first. Get on outta the way, Leroy!

Tape. Let's roll tape.

Ooh, yeah, girl.


Come here, girl.

Oh, yeah.

Oh, yeah.

Yeah. You like that?

Yeah. Ooh. That's nice.

Just lei me put it in.

No, I think it's just fine where it is.

Come on, baby. Just a little bit.

No, Pap...

It's gonna feel real good to you.

Don't mean I don't wanna mess around a little bit.

I just didn't wanna do all of that.

Come on, now. It's just getting good to me.

What the hell happened to you?

Clarence? I told you be here 9:00, 9:30.

What time is it? 11:00, hell!

Come on, go, go, go!

Wait, wait, wait. Give me this.

Here, put this on your head. Put that on right now.

There you go.

Come on, let's go.

Come on, now.

That's good. Just...

Woke up this morning.

When chickens was crowing for days.

Get her off the stage!

Good Lord! Just let her sing anyway.

Get off the stage!

Looked on the right side of my pillow.

My man had gone away.

I don't wanna hear this, man. Go back inside.

Come on. Just let the girl sing!

By his pillow.

He left a note.

"Reading, " I'm sorry, Jane.

"You got my goat".

"No time to marry.

"No time to settle down".

Get what everybody else gets. Well, we ain't everybody else.

No, no, no. You said $5, sir.

A little something extra for me and my sister.

A dollar's good enough and a dollar's what you'll take.

$2, sir, for the both of us? For a week's work?

That's the deal.

Can you see her this time?


You had a good week, at least.

I know wash women who make more.

Don't be that way.

Well, I'm tellin' ya, Mama ain't satisfied. I'm gonna quit the 81.

You're not.

Not if it means quitting you.


Bessie, you come out of there right now!

I told you about having all those men in the room.

Ain't no mens here, Miss Taylor!

Just us ladies, ma'am.

Go on and take her her board. She'll cool down.

Miss Taylor'?

Y'all are gonna have to take that foolishness somewhere...


This is not the only boardinghouse in Atlanta.


Hey, look here, I'm coming to work with you today.

I gotta get me a new act.

I like it. I like you.

I like you, too.


Good, Georgette.

Mary Watson, if I have to tell you to smile one more time, we having words.

Francine, baby, you're clamping around up there like a horse.

A H-O-R-S-E.

Bessie, get down now. Stop teasing. It's not your rehearsal.

Hey, Mr. Scandrick. I've been working on a little something.

Are you saying you wanna be in my chorus line?

Yeah, come on, girls. Let's show him.

- And a...

Oh, I've got what it takes.

But it breaks my head 10 give it away

it's in demand.

They want it every day.

I've been saving it up...

You just keep right on saving it.

You don't like it?

It's all right, but it ain't hitting on all sixes.

Now, if you done messing up my rehearsal...

What about the bag test, James? Hmm?

Yeah, give her the test.

You must be lighter than.

The top prize for tonight's raffle, a gold tooth. That's right.

Hold up them tickets. Hold 'em up. I know you got 'em. I know you got 'em.

But first, the Queen of Melody, the Empress of Rhythm.

We're talking about the real Mother of the Blues, Ma Rainey.

This the real blues here. Mmm-hmm. Mmm-hmm.



Lord, you see me weepin'.

And you hear me cry.

Sing it, girl.

Lord, you see me weepin'.

And you hear me cry.

I ain't weepin' 'bout no money.

Just that man of mine.

Lord, you see me weepin'.

And you hear me cry.

We got rehearsals in the morning. I could be sleeping or at least partying.

Well, go on, then.

I just wanna meet her. You can meet her tomorrow.

Mobile, Alabama, we're on the road for a week.

Then Gainesville, Florida.

Slow, slow, slow, baby. Have mercy.

Contracts only four nights. Then we can go on to...

Why we backtracking to Mississippi instead of going to 'Bama?

Seem like we should just go on from here, maybe do a longer run in Mobile, even add Huntsville.

Well, we'll be making it just in time for cotton season and catch everybody with their pay, you know?


Hey, get back here.

Besides, the harvest don't start in Florida for another two weeks.


You've been using that goober oil like I told you?

Yes, ma'am.

Nice and soft.

Well, what about Tennessee?

You got Memphis. You got Chattanoog... Ho!

How'd you get in here?

Can I join your show? You can see yourself out.

Where you from?

Blue Goose Hollow. A who what?

That a street name?

Where I'm from, they don't have no street names.

Hmm. That where your people from, too?

They died a long time ago.

Well, the loneliest thing in the world is a motherless child.

Well, I got two brothers and my sister Viola...

Well, let me shave you dry.

They don't amount to much, do they? You on your own.

Well, Miss Blue Goose... Bessie!

...I thank you for calling. Bessie!

Bessie, get down from there.

Do I audition or...

I heard you in the show. I know you can sing.

So, stay or jump, bitch.

Well, the train is... I don't give a damn about the train, a thunderstorm, a shotgun or what.

You just got to decide for yourself.

Hell, you got the St. Louis blues, the Chicago blues, "the Gin House blues, the “my man done left me" blues.

They all the same song, ain't they?

With the same three chords.

And you done heard 'em about a dozen hundred times from a dozen hundred people.

So, what make folks wanna hear from you?

So, you got to put something else in it.

The blues is not about people knowing you.

It's about you knowing people.

Who done that to you, huh?

Big old girl like you letting folks beat on you.

This look like it might stay forever.

What you doing fanning yourself around here for?

Shut the door good on your way out.

Where you going without my sugar, though?

Mmm. Mmm-hmm.

What you grinning about, Blue Goose? What you know about it?

Same thing you know.

What's your name, pretty lady?

Bessie Smith.

Miss Bessie Smith.

So, like we said... How many seats in the house?

200. I counted 250.

Ah! I meant ZOO-plus, give or take.

And you sure eager to take.

She need to be here? She needs to understand why TOBA stands for "Tough On Black Asses."

Actually, it stands for Theater Owners Booking Association, T-O-B...

What's the cover'? A nickel.

Hmm. Newspaper ad say a dime.

Well, we don't always...

$12.50. Pardon me?

That's 10 cents times 250 seats. Our contract is 50-50 per head.

$12.50 in advance every night.

We have no way of knowing how many people are actually gonna show up.

We'll refund your no-shows.

Bessie will be counting the empty seats.

PAC $12.50.

Boy, aren't you getting a hell of a deal?

Now let's talk about the bar.

What you standing way back here for?

Keep on going-

I ain't said stop.

A little bit more.

Ma. That's about right.

Now how that feel?

Like I'm about to fall.

That's how it should feel every night.

If you're not risking nothing, neither will they.

Now where's that heifer that stole your man?

Ain't nobody here. Pick somebody.

Right there. How about her? Three rows back on the left.



Yeah, that look like her.

And what you gotta say to that bitch?

And right there.

Oh, there's that pinched-back man that stole all your money.

Yeah, that's him.

Tell them about theyselves. Go on, baby.

Bess? We're rehitching. Okay.

That mighty caboose right there.

That was Bertha... I mean, Miss Bessie Smith.

Aw, come on now, be nice, be nice.

We got your headliner coming up.


I got that, Clive.

Gin'll make you crazy.

Why don't you let me buy you a whiskey instead?

That "stand and shout" shit might work back home, but you got to bring some hoop-de-doo to get these city folk attention.

Don't nobody care what you think. You don't know nothin' from nothin'.

Oh, I ain't trying to fuss with you, gorgeous.

Just 'cause you got a little sport in your strut don't make you no authority.

I was just giving you my opinion, that's all.

I'm gonna see you later tonight. Not hardly.

Yeah, you will.


Say, you seen Ma?

You were just talking to her.

I went out last night.

With a crowd of my friends.

Must have been women.

Cause I don't like no men.

Wear my clothes Just like a fan.

Talk to the gals Just like any old man.

They say I do I!

Ain't nobody caught me.

Sure got to prove it on me.

Oh, wait a minute now, wait a minute now.

I see some of your eyes rolling, trying to find my Johnson.

That ain't ladylike.

Trust me, Mama, I got everything you need.


'Cause they say I do it!

Ain't nobody caught me

I almost got her to go to bed with me.

You ain't almost nothing. What?

Ain't no "almost" right here, baby. Mmm.

Ooh-hoo! Ma get more tail than me.

What you looking 'round for'? Who gonna see ya?

And so what if they do?

They got to prove it on you, baby.

They got to prove it on you, baby. Yeah!

Shit, like they doing something bad. What they doing, baby?

Go on with that.

Let the cards do the talking. Let the cards do the motherfucking talking.

What the fuck was she talking about?

Take that bullshit on back where you got it from.

I told you, you ain't ready for the big leagues.

Lord, you see me weepin'

And you hear me cry.

Lord, you see me weepin'.

And you hear me cry.

I ain't weepin' 'bout no money.

Just that man of mine.

Lord, this mean old engineer.

Cruel as he could be.

This mean old engineer.

Cruel as he could be.

Took my man away.

And blowed the smoke back at me.

Back at me.

I'm going down South.

Won't be back till fall.

Back fill fall.

I'm going down South.


Won't be back till fall.

Yeah, I! I dam find my easy rider.

Ain't cumin' back at ah.


Yeah, I! I dam find my easy rider.

Come on, Bessie! Sing it!

Ain't comin' back at all.

Back at all.

Yeah, Bessie!


You can't control that.

Her goddamn ego... Whoo-hoo!

I ain't never seen 'em like that!

We sung that song.

Yeah, I earned this tonight.

On, yeah.

Come on, Ma, you ain't gonna drink no...

I know you ain't drinking no corn with me.

Remember what I told you about the blues?

About you knowing the people and not the other way around?


I knowed everybody in there and they knowed me.

You sure love yourself.

I see that gin done finally made you blow your top, huh?

I did good.

It's not a matter of you doing good.

You're just busted 'cause they was yelling for me more than they was yelling for you.

You better turn your damper down.

I ain't scared of you. I ain't never asked you to be.

All I asked you for was respect.

Respect for yourself, respect for these songs.

I ain't see you respect all this extra money I'm bringing in here.

Oh, let me get you told, little gal, 'cause I can see you ain't learned your lesson yet.

It's my name on this train, it's my name on those flyers, and it is in my name that everybody in this company takes to that stage.

Now, until you can get yourself together, you're going back to deucing, 'cause you ain't ready to headline.

Deucing? Deucing.


I ain't playing second to nobody anymore.

Best we shake hands and go.

Well, Miss Blue Goose, take off my goddamn shoes.

What's wrong? What happened?

We're starting our own show. Our own show?

We're just getting started. I'm finished with starting.

Wait, Bessie, I'm gonna go talk to Ma.

Hey, don't leave. I'm coming!

The 3:00 with service... They're coming, all right?

All right, don't give me that face now. Just relax. They're coming.

Hey, man! How you feeling? You all right?

Bobby, you know I'd catch you.

Good to see you. So good to see you.

It's corn bread time.

The money gonna come in soon. Thank y'all for helping me.

Sure. This ain't nothing like it used to be.

You want some more of these greens?

You know, I ain't nervous yet.

You have to take the show on the road.

Hip, 100. Get in on the ground floor.

We're gonna take good care of you.

'Cause what we're doing here, man, is we're bringing a little South to the North.

A little taste of home for all these homesick Yankees.

You know what I'm saying? They ain't ready for it.

They ain't ready for it, but I'm telling you, Bessie's doing big things, man, and you on bass, you on horn.

Next, we have Doreen Dupree from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Is that a real name or a made-up one?

Hattiesburg is a real...

Not Hattiesburg. I know where in the hell Hattiesburg is.

I'm talking about "Doreen Dupree."

That sound like some made-up, store-bought shit to me.

Don't that sound like some old vaudeville mess to you?

Who mama and daddy gonna name 'em something go together like that?

You pick that out of a magazine or something?

It's on my birth certificate.

They ain't have birth certificates in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

And take that damn gum out your mouth.

Don't nobody wanna see you up there chewing like a cow.

Where do I put it?

Hold it in your damn hand, Hattiesburg.

Five, six, seven, eight.

Wait. Ho, ho, ho, ho!

What is that?

I'm dancing, ma'am.

I wanna... You better sing something first.

I don't know how to sing.

You don't know how to sing?

You wanna be in my show, you have to be able to sing, dance, and tell a damn joke or two.

Web', I woke up this morning...

That's enough. Clarence, give her the bag test.

What you grinning for? You failed.

You must be darker than the bag to be in my show.

Now get going with your high-yellow ass.

Next! Etta Johnson, Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

Bell Buckle? Lord!

No yellow bitches.

Next! Next!

What if I didn't pass your bag test?

I never give you no test. Oh, you test me, daily.

No, you... Mmm-mmm. You tell me.

Come on, Lucy.


I wanna know.

Would you still love me?

You'd still be you.

And how would you know that?

You know how I feel.

Then I need you to say it.

You know. No, I don't know.

You know.

Then say it.

It wouldn't matter.

It wouldn't matter, what?

It wouldn't matter about your color.

You know I...

I cares for you.

You cares for me?

You cares for me. Is that all?

No, that ain't all.

What... Why you acting up today'?

I need you to tell me something.

I'm gonna show you something instead.

No, you can make this bigger. You know what I mean?

It's got 10 say, "This is Bessie Smith."

So, make this bigger and this a little bit smaller like that.

Now, that's what... That's what I'm talkin' about, right there.

Come on. All right.

Open them eyes!

Hey, now! That's right.

Bessie Smith and Her Down Home Trio.

Ho-ho, now! That's right.

I' was with you, baby.

When you didn't have a dime.

I was with you, baby.

When you didn't have a dime.

Now, since you got plenty of money.

You have throwed your good gal down.

This is AR Knight from the Chicago Defender, and I'm here to tee'! You that Bessie Smith is the locomotive that shot out of Tennessee.

This is W. Alexander from the Boston Guardian.

Talk about "Chattanooga Chou-Choc,".

Bessie Smith is the biggest thing since Ma Rainey.

This is J. Anderson reporting for the New York Amsterdam News.

If you haven't got your tickets, folks, you're not gonna get 'em, 'cause it's already sold out.

Who is it?

I'm here to audition for Miss Bessie Smith.

I didn't ask you what you want. I asked you who you are.

Open the door and see, big man.

My name is Jack Gee, ma'am, and I'm 32 years old from Titustown, Virginia, and I schooled till the 10th grade.

I'm nobody's husband and I'm nobody's daddy.

I make $13.75 a week working as a security guard at the five-and-dime.

Another $2.80 on the weekend at the Top Hat.

I got my own halo-bedroom apartment and I drive a brand-new 1921 Davis Touring.

Now, I don't believe in church, but I do believe in God, and I know it to be the God's honest truth that you're the most beautiful woman ever sing the blues, or any woman, period.

And I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance this fine afternoon.

Can you sing? Oh, yes.

Can you dance? Oh, yes.

Auditions for the show are over.

I ain't auditioning for no show.

I'm auditioning to be your man.

You look a little small.

Baby, I'm built for speed. Really, now?

Well, maybe you only auditions women.

I auditions whosoever I please.

I can give it as hard as I can take it, and I don't mind going to jail.

Bottle of gin for the lady and a glass for me.

She fine. Man.

Watch this.

The lady don't smoke. The hell she don't.

So, that's your man or what?

No, he's still auditioning.

Can I have this dance, baby?

Touch her hand, Charlie, and draw back a nub.

And what if I touch his?

Hey! Yeah, come here!

Come on, girl. Run!

Let's go get 'em, okay? Get that motherfucker!

Chump! You were so brave, Papa!

See how crazy I am about you, girl!

Your audition ain't over yet.

Keep your eyes on the road.

Say, we still $15 short.

$10 is what everybody gets.

But we had a contract, sir.

Contract? You must be one of them old country niggers.


I'll cut you every way but loose.

And remember when we did that show at Don's place?

Ah, you don't remember that.

Ooh! Lookit. Lookit, JG. That's our corner.

That's our corner. A penny a song.

I love you, Bessie! You see that gin joint right there?

That's where I made my first whole dollar.

Spent it, too.

How y'all doing? Oh, my God.

A good man is hard to find.

You always get another kind.

So, if your man is nice.

Take my advice...

Come over here right now.

You know all them words? Yeah.

You know what you're singing?

Hold out your hand right now.

Keep singing. Make sure all you're doing is singing.

Come on, let's go.

Mommy. Where's my mama?

Welcome home. Come on inside. Hey, hey!

Hey y'all. How you doing? How you doing?

Viola, you here? Viola, where you at?

Well, I guess you think you're something.

How are you?

You care?

I think I'm gonna go show Jack and Lucille around.

That's your man?

You got something to eat?

Drink? Oh, city gal, huh?

Can't stand to be in regular folks' houses no more.

You still keeps the food locked up.

That's right.

Y'all was like little rats.

How else was I supposed to keep the food in the house and feed six people? Come here.

Go get a case of Coca-Cola and a lot of ice.

As many tater chips and peanuts as you can get.

Oh, golly. Mmm!

A whole case of Coca-Cola.

After 10 years, ain't you a saint?

Don't drink it all up.

You're one to talk.

Well, you're the one still keep the food locked up.

Don't look like you're missing no meals.

Well, I sure didn't gel 'em here, now, did I?

I got some tickets for the show tonight.

You want to bring the family... I got someplace else to be.

You been by Mama's grave yet?

No street signs, no lights, no nothing.

Hold ya, Mama, this is Blue Goose Hollow.

I know this town better than JG's ding-a-ling.

Yeah, this is my town!

Hey, Bessie! Hey.

You remember. I know you remember...

Easy, Papa. Leave room for the Holy Ghost, now.

Good times with you two.

Girl, you gotta get your man. Hey.

Leave them gals be. No.

Yeah. Get off of me.

What do you think this is? I said leave 'em be!

Shut up, fat bitch.

What'd that fucker say to me? I said...


Don't nobody try her.

She's in her gin, y'all.

Your little dancer decided to come along for the ride.

Y'all know how to ball!

And we're gonna ball again tomorrow.

Hey, get back here!

Clarence, help us.

Where's a doctor?

Get somebody!

Get somebody! Hurry up. Baby, look at me. Look at me.

Shit. Help!



Bessie! Hurry up!


- Bessie! Bessie! Mommy!

Bessie! Mommy!

Bessie! No!

Where's my mommy?

Where's Mama?

JACK ifs okay. Ifs okay, baby.

Baby, it's okay. Get off of me! Get off of me!

Get off of me! She's okay. She's okay.

Why did you... I'm right here, baby.

You let her get me. I ain't going nowhere, I love you.

You gotta let that heal. You gotta let that heal.

Bess, you gotta let that heal. We got a show to do.

No, no, ain't no show. Ain't no show.

Bess! What you doing? Bess!

Wait, wait, wait. You still got to wait. Stay here.

Bess! Now, Bess, come on!

Bess! Nurse!

Bess, what you doing?

How much y'all pay to get in here?

25 cents.

25 cents? Huh.

I wouldn't pay 25 cent to go in nowhere.

Well, I guess I better sing something, huh?

Since y'all spent all that money.

Dear Miss Smith, my name is Harry Herbert Pace, president of the newly formed Black Swan Records, based in Harlem, New York City.

I'm a great admirer of your work, having seen you perform at the Royal Theater in Philadelphia.

News of your great talent continues to precede you and we would like to invite you to an audition at our offices in Times Square, New York City, to be our...

"...first recording artist signed to the Black Swan label.“."

Well, this is it.

I always wanted to live in New York City, you know.

You're gonna be the biggest thing since Mamie Smith.

You know how many records she sold last year?

A million. A colored outfit?

Ain't nobody heard of no Black Swan.

What you need is a national label. Big-time.

W.E.B. Du Bois' company wants to record you, sis.

This is the big time!

So? I read his book. I doubt you read his book.

I read the damn book.

What's that got to do with music? This is the big ticket.

Bessie, this is what they're calling Pan-Africanism.

Well, what about Pan-Americanism?

Can she sell more tickets? That's what I wanna know.

"The only genuine colored records. The others are only passing for colored."

That's their motto. I like that.

I like it, too.

"Yours in negritude, Harry Herbert Pace."

The fuck is negritude?

That means they're real, real black. My kind of people.

Talk about passing.

Y'all is fried, dyed, and laid to the side.

Well, and we are very excited to be here.

Very excited. We were surprised you could schedule the audition so quickly given your busy tour schedule.

We canceled the rest of our tour to be here.

Well, that's... Well, y'all wanna hear me sing, right?

Yes. Yes, yes, of course.

Is there anything else that you need?

I need a little something for this tea.

Honey, sugar, milk?

Splash of Old Tom will be just fine.

"Old Tom"? Gin?

I'm sorry, I...

I don't know that we have any or where we could find any.

You see, it's, uh...

I mean, it's illegal. Never mind. It's okay.

No, it ain't okay.

You want her at her best, then give her what she needs.

It's okay, Papa.


Hold up.

Something ain't right.


I got a man I love.

Why he had to leave me?

I got a man I love.

Smart as he can be.

Dear Miss Smith, while we appreciate your down-home sound, we do not feel that it is a fit for Black Swan Records.

We have chosen to record instead a young lady who we unanimously agree has a more compatible sound and is a bright, shining example of the Harlem Renaissance and an uplift to the race.

We hope you can appreciate the difficulty of our decision and the choices that must be made in the name of progress.

We remain admirers of your work and hope that you will keep us in mind for your future recordings,.

You let her go in there and make a damn fool out of herself.

Pour me another glass of this corn. Ain't nobody crying.

It was a good meeting, man.

Hey, baby, look here. Never again.

Damn fools don't know nothing about no talent.

I'm gonna get you a real record deal!

I said I don't wanna hear no more about it.

What the hell you know about anything?

We've been in this business before you was wiping your own ass.

Lookit here.

It's about damn time she started taking advice from a nigger that don't wear no stage makeup!


Give me some more of this!

Give me some more of all this stuff!

It'll pass.

A couple of them myself, too.

Are you sure?

Hey, Bessie.

This here Mr. Walker want to meet you.

The hell you bring him here for?

You remember him.

Brought him by a couple of your shows. He wants to talk to you about a record deal.

A real recording contract. Miss Smith, I'd like to record you for Columbia Records for our new Race Records division.

What is a Race Record? The one where they put a coon on the front?

What? Uh, no. No, ma'am.

We at Columbia are taking a different approach.

I'm not interested in your Race Records.

And I'm not interested in wasting my time singing no store-bought blues.

But we want your sound.

We want the Bessie Smith sound.

And it would be your face on the ad, nothing like those other records.

I already sell out every show from Philly to Chicago.

Ain't nobody doing it like I'm doing it.

You'd attract a broader audience.

I've been doing just fine without 'em.

I can offer you $50 a side. No royalties, of course.


Don't play with me now.


Now, you want what's in my jacket or in my pocket?

I already know what's in your pocket.

Maybe you do, maybe you don't.

Now, what do you want? This or this?

I want another velvet box.

Marry me.

You know you can't be putting me up on no shelf.

I ain't no henpecked man, either.

Take a chance on me.

Come here, girl.

Now, what's in that other pocket?


Just a recording contract from Columbia Records.

$125 a side.

That's double what that man said.

That's 'cause I'm fighting for you now, baby.

Well, maybe we should tell Clarence. Uh-uh.

This here is me and you now.

All set. Let 'em know.

Let's hope she knows what she's doing.

They tell me she does.

Take a listen. This always takes...

Everything all right, Bessie?

Yeah, as soon as y'all move this thing out the way, I'm ready to go.

Well, no, that's the recording apparatus.

I know it's bigger than what... It's crowding me.

Well, we need it to...

I don't need it. Look, Bess, you got to...

Hey, hey. I'll help her.

What's wrong?

It's gonna be just like the last time.

No, it's not. It ain't gonna go, JG.

It ain't gonna go, JG. I know it. I know how they do it.

They act like they're your pal, and then it all comes loose.

You can't make no silk purse out of no sow's ear, just like Viola always said... Damn Viola.

You hear me? Damn her.

Damn Black Swan.

Damn these crackers in here.

Let's just go home.

Okay, we're going. We're going now. Right now.

But sing one song, honey. The way you like it.

Don't sing it for me, them, nobody.

You sing it for yourself.

Now what you say?

Okay, here we go, Bessie.

Mr. Gee, if you could just step away from the cone.

He's staying right here.



Gee, but it's hard to love someone.

When that someone don't love you.

I'm so disgusted Heartbroken, too.

I've got those downhearted blues.

Once I was crazy 'bout a man.

Who mistreated me all the time.

The next man I get has got to.

Promise me to be mine.

All mine.

Trouble, trouble.

I had it all my days.

Come here.

Trouble, trouble.

I had it all my days.

It seems that trouble's I love you. You're mine.

Going to follow me to my grave.

I aim never loved bu!

Three mens in my fife.

I aim never loved bu!

Three mens in my fife.

My father, my brother.

The man that wrecked my life.

I got the world in a jug.

The stoppers in my hand.

I got the world in a jug.

The stoppers in my hand.

Yeah. Put that on top of that box.


Seems I done traced the lightning back to its source.

Hey, boss. One more.

What's your name?

Ain't too smart to give out names in my business.

Just call me your bootlegger. And what do I call you?

You don't know who I am?

Oh, I know who you are.

But what do you want me 10 call you?

Oh, yes. Yeah!

What the fuck is your name? What is it?

Richard. Tell me your name.

Richard, baby! My name is Richard.

Come on, baby.

Right here.

Look good, huh?


But why is your name on it?

Why is my name on it?

'Cause somebody somewhere right now putting a record on listening to you.

You're making money while you sleep.

Ain't had to sing a word this morning.

It is fine.

A whole train. It was my idea.

Told you six months ago we should get a train.

Look here, we're saving money now.

Ain't never have to go through another third-rate backdoor again.

That's what I told you!

Yeah, well, some are talkers and some are doers.

And, baby, I'm a doer.

And I done done it.

"Jack Gee presents."

Jack Gee presents the most demonstrating, syncopating, electrifying woman in the world.

Ha, ha!

My girl.

How y'all feeling tonight? Yeah!

Come on, now. Yeah!

Give a little bit.

Oh, this reminds me of church.

What? I think we might have to preach them blues tonight.


Here, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger!

Nigger! Hurry!

Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger!

Give it here, give it here.

Come on, go around the side. Go around the side.

Come on, let's move it.

Bring it down! We gotta get out of here.

The Klan is here. The Ku Klux Klan is here!

It's gonna be all right. Come on, niggers!

Come on, come on. Let's get a move on.

You ain't singing so pretty now, are you, nigger?

Are you scared inside?

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Don't go out there, Bessie! They're gonna kill you.

Bessie, no!

Get on out of here!

What the hell are you doing?

Get back. Hey!

You better pick up your sheets and run!

Get out of here. I'm gonna get you!

Get out of here!

We'll be back!

We'll be back!

Down in Atlanta, GA.

Under the viaduct every day.

Drinking liquor and hollerin' hooray.

Pianos playing till the break oi day.

But as I turned my head.

I loudly said.

Preach them blues.

Sing them blues.

They certainty sound good to me.

I've been in love for the last six months.

Am done worrying yet.

Moan them blues Holler them blues.

Let me convert your soul

'Cause just a little spirit.

Of the blues tonight.

Let me lei! You, girls.

That your man ain't treating you right.

Going on down the line a little further now.

There's a-many poor woman down.

Read on down to chapter nine.

Women mus! Learn how to take their time.

Read on down to chapter ten.

Taking other women's men You are doing a sin.

Sing 'em, sing 'em Sing them blues.

Let me convert your soul.

Here we go! Here we go!

Hey, Bessie! We're praying for you!

Thank you, Bessie!

Thank you!

Never thought it'd be like this.

You woke us up.

Now I really ain't gonna give you none.


Hit it again.

"New York is celebrated for its transitory fads."

”During the current season, the Negro is in ascendancy.“ Miss Smith, so wonderful you could join us. You're one of our last guests to arrive.

Edgar! Mr. Van Vechten, fourth floor.

"Soon, doubtless, the homely Negro songs of lovesickness"

“known as The blues'.

"Known and appreciated by white audiences.”".

It's a little tight, don't you think?

Ooh, yeah!

Oh, my!

Bessie Smith is here!

You look fabulous! I heard that you were wild.

Get the fuck off me.

Now, where's the good music, the good food, and the good liquor?

Langston Hughes is the greatest Negro poet of our time.

Oh. Who's the best regular poet?

Langston, how about a little poem?

Come on. I'm not feeling up to it.

Well, I'll sing a note or two.

Ladies and gentlemen, quiet, please. Go, girl.

Miss Smith. Miss Smith, I should warn you.

This crowd isn't...

I have a treat. I have a special treat.

The incomparable Bessie Smith is going to sing us a song.

Everybody's cryin'.

The workhouse blues ail day.

Oh, Lord.

Oh, Lord.

The work is so hard.

Thirty days is so long.

Oh, Lord.

I cam plow.

I can't cook if I'd run away Wouldn't that be good?

Wen, I'm goin' to the nation.

Goin' to the territor.

The workhouse sits way out a.

Long old lonesome road.

I'm a hard-luck gal.

Get the devil everywhere I go.


Where the drinks at around here?

Let me get a little something.

You are a treasure.

That was so beautiful and so soulful, and, frankly, exactly the kind of dusky pathos that I'm looking to capture for my new book Nigger Heaven...

Say what? Nigger Heaven, it...

You know the only difference between white folks in the North and white folks in the South?

White folks in the South don't care how close you get as long as you don't get too big.

And white folks in the North don't care how big you get as long as you don't get too close.

Are you all right?

If Bessie Smith is crude and primitive, she reflects the true folk spirit of her race.

Morning, Gee!

I got something for you.

Got somebody I want you to meet. This here is Gertrude.

She's a singer. Writes songs, too.

You know Claudine dropped out in Cincinnati.

Got pregnant.

So, I hired Gertrude hereto replace her.

The fuck you showing her to me for?

I don't know.

Thought maybe you might have something to say.

Sort of like, "Welcome."

What kind of fucked-up name is Gertrude'? You a half-breed?

Excuse us, please. Go on and get yourself something to eat, baby.

What the hell is wrong with you?

I know you got your side pieces, but why you gotta rub 'em in my face?

I'm just trying to build a...

You want me 10 sniff her for you, too?

I'm just trying to build a show here, Bessie.

You got her wearing my things.

I know you think I'm big and ugly.

You think I'm blind and dumb, too?

It ain't... It ain't like you ain't been tipping out, too.

I know it. Tell me different.


Baby, I promise, cross my heart, I don't love nobody else but you.

And you don't love nobody else but me, so the rest really don't matter now, do they?

You know I don't think what you said.

You're my fine woman.


Let's start over.

Let's me and you both clean house.

Come on.

Let's try.

They said you had your own train. I didn't believe 'em.

But goddamn, sis.

You a high post now' huh.

You ain't tell me about all this.

You get that money I sent you? Oh, yeah.

I get them little wires you've been sending.

They're nice, feeding four kids and all. Mmm.

Okay, look.

I know you and I bump heads most of the time, but I'm just here to show my support.

Mmm. Real nice.

This is from Europe and what have you.

I got you something.

Probably not fancy enough for you now, but I thought you'd like n.

I'm proud of you.

I'm so proud of you.

You gonna stay around for a while?

Think Clarence could get me tickets?

He's in the box office.

Thank you.

Come on. Come on and see.

Come on in here.

Come on.

Come on, y'all. Get inside.

The paint already fading.

Take a look around.

Take your time. This your home.

Lord have mercy.

Look around, breathe it in.

This is something, Bessie.

Smell different, don't it?

Listen here, Bessie.

We ain't talk about getting no house.

I ain't see your name on my bank book.

Us, Papa.

I knew you'd like it. Lucille, how the upstairs look?

But if you did it for us, why all of them got to move in here for?

And especially why is she here?

Baby, she's gonna be all the way back in the house.

You ain't hardly gonna see her.

I don't know why certain people's got they lip turned up.

Must be smelling something.

Damn right, I'm smelling something.

Must be a dead rat in the wall.

Must be.

Baby, stop.

Why you ain't ask me first? See if I was ready?

Well, I'm ready.

I want a real family, not no road family.

I want the whole thing, you know?

A big house and everybody in it.

Well, everybody ain't gonna be in it if you don't start showing me some respect!

I'm gonna put a big piano right here, a big dining room table is gonna go here.

I'm gonna get me a nice rug for that parlor.

And I'm gonna get me a baby, too, and I'm gonna put him right in there.

A what? Come see the... A baby.

Come on, see the kitchen.

Always a pleasure.



You're gonna have to start delivering. I'm a married woman now.

I can't keep doing these pickups.

No problem, ma'am. What do you want?

I'll follow you home just like this.

You trot yourself out there swinging and dangling. See what happens.

Yeah, suits me fine.

I don't want you for no customer anymore, nohow.

Why not?

Every man in your life is a business relationship.

Your brother's your partner, your man's your manager, and your woman is your dancer.

And you're my bootlegger.

Uh-uh. Not no more.

Matter of fact, I'm giving you a full 100% refund.



I don't wanna be in business with you.

I wants to be in love with you.

I'll take the shine.

Fine, take it.

I'm giving it to you. Not selling it.

I gotta get home to JG.


You don't have to pay for something that I'm already offering for free.

I'm gonna spend it on you anyhow.



I want you to meet Jack Junior.

Junior, this is my family. Your new family.

That's your Uncle Clarence. There's your Aunt Viola.

And this is your new daddy, Jack.

JG, come meet your son, Jack Junior.

How old are you, boy?

Seven years old, sir.

Where are you from?

Shelby County Children's Home, sir.

'An orphanage? 'Mmm!

Mmm, mmm, mmm.

I don't know about that, sir, but that's what she told me to say.

Well, what's your real name?

My name is Jack Gee Junior, sir.


Come on over here and give your daddy a hug.


Smells good in here.

Eat as much as you want, Jack Junior.

Happy Thanksgiving.

What you looking at, Viola?

Come on, sit down here.

With that fork there.

Know how to use a knife? Yes, sir.

That piece of chicken right there.

You want some of this dressing here?

Wait till I'm finished.

Come here!

Bessie, where you at, baby?

Put 'em up. Yeah, guard yourself. Bam!

I'll knock you out.

Guard that face. Barn, bam!

Come one, you ain't gonna whup nobody like that.

Now, you gotta get in there, baby. Come on. Pop!

There you go. Pop! There you go. Get in there on him.

You can't get him if you're afraid to take one.

Block him. Block now. Block!

What you trying to do? Huh? What you trying to do?

Get him, Mama! Yeah, get him! Mmm...

You gonna beat your old man up, huh?


Louis and I are getting married.

You and who?

I can't no more.

I want a family.

Like you.

Showbiz life can't last forever.

I just want a normal life.

Thank you.

We love you, Bessie!

We love you, Bessie!

It's a long old road.

But I'm gonna find the end.

A long old road.

Find the end.

And when I get there.

Shake hands with a friend.

Come on, come on.

No, no, no, you don't... No.

No, no, no. What the fuck is this shit?

Come on, come on inside. Don't worry about it.

Bitch! Jack, you fucker!

"The most beautiful blues sensation"? Huh?

The hell are you talking about?

I'm talking about you backing this bitch with my money!

With what? I can't believe you did this shit!

I gotta see it on the street! That's my money!

You're spending my money on this bitch!

That's my goddamn money!

I made you! ...fucking money.

You promised me, Jack.

You promised me, too! You promised me, too!

Where you get them earrings from, huh?

I know where. That goddamn bootlegger.

You... Don't touch me!

Don't you fucking touch me! You want this bitch, you eat her!

You eat her!


Where are you going? You're leaving'? You're leaving?

You don't get to leave me! I should've left your ass!

You got what you want. You can have it.

Get out of my way.



You go!


Jack! Jack!


I can't stand it. You want me to get your medicine?

What did you say to me? Your medicine, honey.

Don't think I don't know what you be saying about me.

Get out!

Get out! Get the fuck out of my room! What are you talkin' about?

Get out of here, Viola! The fuck is you looking at? Go!

It ain't my fault!

I hate you!

Go, go.

You think I don't know'? Yeah, I know.

Leave me alone.

Come on, come on. Hurry up.

JG? Hey! Let's go.

Who the hell are you? Mama!

How did you get in here? What you doing in...

Come on, boy. Jack!

Mama! Junior! No!

Mama! Mama, keep me!

Jack! Junior! Mama, keep me!

What you doing?

That's my stuff. Mama!

Hurry up. Get in there.


I'll kill you. Get this shit off.

Get off of me. Get Junior in the car!

Stealing my baby! You're trying to kill me.

Stop it, stop it! Mama!

You ain't fit to be a mother!

Can't you just leave him? Just leave him, okay?

Why? You're high, you're drunk. You ain't fit!

You're just trying to kill me!

You ain't gonna never see Junior again!

You're a liar! I'll kill you!

I'll kill myself.

Go! Let's go! No! Stop!

Mama! Junior!

Mama, keep me! Mama!

You let him in.

To glimpse a small, flickering hope.

General Motors, that formidable industrial titan, has not only weathered the Great Depression, but has bested it in a demonstration of typically American fortitude and ingenuity.

Where others are shuttering their windows, General Motors turns in its second quarter of profits.

Slowly Murchison draws his gleaming revolver, its cold silvery glint reflected in a dark puddle.

Careful now, Bill!

And what's that sound? Listen. Just there.

Hey, there's food here, now. You need to eat something.

Come on.

You have anybody under that name?


Yeah, yeah, I'll take it.


It's gonna be all right.

We're going on a trip.

You ready? Yeah.

One last drive, then we have to sell this, too.

You okay?

Yeah, she just needs some time.

"Of the artists who have communicated the blues"

"to the more sophisticated Negro and white public...“."

What the hell does he know about being sophisticated?

"I think Ethel Waters is the best."

"In fact, to my mind, Miss Waters is superior"

"to any other woman stage singer of her race.“."


See how they love to instigate? Set us up against each other?

Them's graveyard words. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Don't worry, honey.

No decent colored folk even read that silly magazine.

It ain't for us anyhow.

Nigger Heaven.

I'm thinking of writing my own book.

Cracker Hell. If Vechten is the nigger expert, then I'm damn sure the cracker authority.

Come on, Ma. It hurts too much to laugh.

Yankee blacks cut you up. Yankee whites trying to out you down.

JG took Junior.

And he's trying to...

And he's...

You just take care of you right now. Get your head right.

Things never turn out straight.

Well, you can't hit a straight lick with a crooked stick, and you're about as crooked as they come.


Now, this right here, this used to be my favorite.

See how it done drawn up three sizes?

You growed three sizes.

Just like you outgrowed your life.

It was like you had a hole in your stomach, or maybe even a worm, and you weren't gonna stop till you ate up everything around ya.

You got to fill that hole yourself, sweetheart.

Nothing or nobody else will fill it.


Uh-huh. Yeah.


They still fit.

Now, you done heard the rest.

And I'm gonna show you the best.

Ma gonna show ya her black bottom.

Don't you see the dance.

They call your big black bottom.

It'll Put you in a trance Ha!

All The boys in the neighborhood.

They say my black bottom is really good.

Yeah, Ma.

Come on, let me show you Do the big black bottom.

Go ahead.

I want to learn that dance.

Come on, Bess. Come on. Get up.

Early in the morning 'Bout the break of day.

Grandma told my grandpa I heard him say.

Come on and let me see your big black bottom.

I want to learn that dance.

All right now, Ma! Come on now, honey.

You gettin' kind of rough there, Ma.

Oh, too strong, too strong!

Oh, baby, too strong.

Oh, I love you, baby.

I love you, too, Ma.

Rent shake this Saturday.

Rent shake this Saturday. Bring what you can.

Here you go, cm.

Hey, that's right, Gilbert. Don't be stingy now.

Hey, y'all, help yourself to the kitchen, now.

Cooked up some good food.

We got a little change. Let me...

Thank you. We still got 'em coming, too. Come on!

Hey, can I use this kitchen for a second, child, if you don't mind?

Come on right back and do as you please.

Now how are you gonna have a rent shake without a bootlegger?

You ain't my bootlegger, remember?

You wanna know how to really make some money nowadays?

Now... Now, I'm serious, now. This is only for grown folks, now.

If you plan on going to church this morning, stop me now.

Play the damn record.

A' got a man I Jove.

I got a man I like.

Every time I fuck them mens.

I give em' the doggone claps.


Oh, my Lord. She's so nasty!


But that's the kind of pussy that...

Oh. Uh-uh. That is too much. Uh-uh. She is just too rough.

These party records going much further nowadays.

Mmm-mmm. I can't go that far.

Well, you could always dust something off, do one of your old numbers, you know?

Rough cock, suck my cock You can tuck my cock...

I ain't gonna suck, tuck, or nothing else to nobody cock.

We can get close 10 it, though.

See, that's what I'm... That's the spirit.

His frankfurters are, oh, so sweet.

How I like his sausage meat.

I can't do without my kitchen man.

Oh, how that boy can open clam.

No one else can touch my ham.

I can't do without my kitchen man.

Gin with no ice, right?

You know, when I saw your name on the sign out front, I thought it had to be some sort of mistake or an imposter.

I can't believe it's you. It is such an honor to meet you, Miss Smith.

Alhambra Ballroom, 7th Ave., 126th Street, Harlem, New York, 1927?

I stand by it. You changed my life.

That was six years ago, sugar. Change doesn't last that long.

Oh, but it does.

I'm sorry. I'm John Hammond, by the way.

Bessie, I wanna produce your comeback tour.

And this is only the beginning.

You see, I'm putting together a concert, right, from spirituals to swing.

Nothing but the best musicians.

We've got Benny Goodman, uh, Fletcher Henderson, a young girl named Billie Holiday. She loves you so much...

Hey, slow down, now. Sorry' I get excited.

Gonna build a new venue specially for it called the Cafe Society.

The first integrated nightclub.

No color lines, no balconies.

Everyone under one roof just swingin'.

You're dreaming' John.

Will you dream it with me? Sing some of that old stuff?

I'm going in a different direction now. You know' trying on some new shoes.

Okay, well, whatever you're thinking, I just wanna be a part of it.

We'll see.

Give me a call? Drop me a line?

Just wanna be a part of it, Bessie.

Okay, this one is good, with the dancer girl.

Now, see, I like this one here.

Look at his little smile.

Calvin, how are you? Nice 10 see you.

This is Bessie Smith, who I was telling you about.

This is John.

We got everything you might need.

Not those old weights and pulleys.

Get tea.

Nothing but the best. I see you got all the parts.

You got Buck Washington, Chu Berry, and this is Benny Goodman.

Such an honor.

Well, well.

I didn't know where you wanted 10 start.

So, I put together every song you ever wrote and then some.

It's a long, old road.

But I'm gonna find the end

it's a long, old road.

But I'm gonna find the end.

And when I get there.

I'm gonna shake hands with a friend.

Weeping and crying.

Tears falling on the ground.

Weeping and crying.

Tears falling on the ground.

When I got to the end.

I was so worried down

it's a long, old road.

But I'm gonna find the end

I do wanna know.

Know what?

What's over that next hill, round the next corner.

Well, you can't go back.

But you can stop.

No, I can't stop.

25 cents?

No, no. I wouldn't pay 25 cents to go in nowhere!

'Cause listen here.