Ella Fitzgerald: An actress as well as a legendary singer

Ella Fitzgerald made appearances in several films, including the 1958 movie 'Pat Kelly's Blues' and 1960's 'Let No Man Write My Epitaph.' Of course, in most of her movies, Ella Fitzgerald ended up performing at least one song.

Ella Fitzgerald performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1973.

Ella Fitzgerald isn’t known as the First Lady of Jazz for nothing – she’s chiefly remembered today for her remarkable singing career, which spanned more than 50 years and won her 13 Grammy Awards.

But she also made her way to Hollywood, starring in a few movies that included “Pete Kelly’s Blues,” which came out in 1955, and “St. Louis Blues,” which was released in 1958.

“Kelly” centered on the protagonist of the same name who worked as a musician but often had run-ins with various residents of the criminal world. Actor Jack Webb of “Dragnet” starred as Pete Kelly, while “Psycho” star Janet Leigh played Pat’s love interest Ivy.

Fitzgerald portrayed singer Maggie Jackson in the movie and performed two numbers, including “Hard-Hearted Hannah.”

Sharp-eyed viewers could also spot future star Jayne Mansfield in the film in a brief role, for which she was billed only as “Cigarette Girl.”

Before “Pete,” Fitzgerald had also appeared in a minor role in the Abbott and Costello movie “Ride ‘Em Cowboy.” In the film, the singer portrayed Ruby, a ranch worker who performed the song “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” After “Kelly,” Fitzgerald appeared in the biopic of blues musician W.C. Handey “St. Louis Blues,” in which she was credited only as “Singer.” Performers Nate King Cole, Eartha Kitt, and Cab Calloway also starred.

Fitzgerald’s final full-length film was 1960’s “Let No Man Write My Epitaph,” which also starred Burl Ives, Shelley Winters, and Ricardo Montalban. The singer portrayed a blues singer addicted to drugs who was living in a Chicago apartment building.

While she herself didn’t appear in the movies, her songs are listed on the soundtracks of more than 100 films. Some of her tracks’ most memorable appearances include the 1989 film “Driving Miss Daisy,” in which her song “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” was used; 1996’s “The English Patient,” which used her song “Cheek to Cheek;” and the 2012 film “The Master,” which featured her song “Get Thee Behind Me Satan.”  

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