A Mississippi car accident in 1937 cut short the life of Bessie Smith.
She was just 43 years old. But she’d already established her legacy as “Empress of the Blues” — a pioneering American performer who demanded respect and equal pay in a world dominated by men and controlled by whites.
She’d also achieved a degree of infamy for her boozing, her brawling and her sexual appetites.
Queen Latifah — who plays the title role in the HBO movie Bessie, which premieres tonight — has been working for more than 20 years to bring Bessie Smith’s life to the screen and finally pulled it together with writer-director Dee Rees.