Watching the commercials for Keira Knightley’s new movie, Begin Again, made me think. She has added herself to the list of actresses who really do sing, playing an ingénue singer named Greta, who becomes the project of Dan Violet (played by Mark Ruffalo). There are even a couple of scenes with Celo Green, so if you want, we can use him to start the male version of the list.
If you want to go way back in the crossover of acting and Jazz, Judy Garland comes to mind. Hollywood restricted her to show tones and happy songs, but she still did a great job when she was allowed to do things with more jazz overtones, like "As Long As He Needs Me" or "The Man That Got Away."
Billie Holiday was approached to do the movie Showboat, but she declined. Pity, because I love adding her to any list I am making. And wouldn't it have been marvelous to see her in that antique setting? But the roundabout way to do it is to add Diana Ross for starring in Lady Sings the Blues, the imperfect fictionalized bio of Billie’s life. I’m happy now.
The Fabulous Baker Boys featured Michelle Pfeiffer as a confused chanteuse who comes in to save the act and ends up causing conflict between the brothers. She actually sings two songs, "Making Whoopee" and "My Funny Valentine," rather well. Torchy and sensuous.
Gweneth Paltrow did a duet of Smokey Robinson’s "Cruisin’" with Huey Lewis back in 2000. Made it to Number 1 on the adult contemporary chart, stayed there for a week, too.
Need I mention Whitney Houston did it? We all loved her in the Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale. There is so much to write about her I can't manage it all in one list, but trust me, she will not be ignored.
Madonna can switch gears like a Lamborghini. From Desperately Seeking Susan to League of Their Own to Die Another Day, she’s crossing acting and singing genres all the time. She even slips into the smooth jazz genre on occasion.
Then there's Jennifer Lopez. She’s been more than a double threat most of her career because she started out dancing on the Waynan’s television show, In Living Color.
And lastly, I want to talk about Jill Scott. She did an entire series for HBO called The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. With Anika Noni Rose, she plays Precious Ramotswe. They solved crimes in Botswana. Filmed on location, with actors from the region, she plays a woman who helps others but has to wrestle with her former relationship with a jazz trumpeter. If you don’t watch more than the first eleven minutes you get to hear her sing for a few seconds.
I'm sure that there are more ladies who sing and act, but they don’t come up on jazz station playlists or in my memory. But if you know of a few, let me know.
~Lydia Barnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our Smooth Video of the Day: Babyface and Gwyneth Paltrow from 2000's Duets.