The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, a new film available Friday on Hulu, has all the subtlety of a lynching.

That’s not a metaphoric accident, since the premise of The United States Vs. Billie Holiday is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation pretty much lynched one of the 20th century’s great singers.

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Andra Day as Billie Holiday.

Directed by Lee Daniels from a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks, United States Vs. Billie Holiday covers the last two decades of Holiday’s life, which ended in 1959.

She was 44 and she was handcuffed to the hospital bed in which she died, because federal agents had just arrested…


Lawrence Ferlinghetti was not, he said, a “Beat poet.”

But he hung around with Beats, also known as Beatniks, and he sold their books in his famous City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, and he shared their skepticism toward contemporary culture and politics.

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti in “The Last Waltz” (1976).

That was plenty for us young kids back in the late ’50s and early ’60s who were intrigued by the Beat mystique without really knowing a darn thing about it.

Ferlinghetti, who died Monday at the highly respectable age of 101, probably found that syndrome amusing. …


It’s good to know that moving from the cold impersonal big city back to a small town, that reliable repository of wholesome genuine neighborly sincerity and family values, doesn’t only happen in Hallmark movies.

It also happens in Superman & Lois, the latest Man of Steel spinoff, which premieres with a two-hour special starting at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday on the CW. A week later it moves to its regular Tuesday 9 p.m. ET slot.

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Hey, kids. Look what Daddy can do.

This Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) spends less time in the first episode thwarting cosmic villains than he does being guilted about his parenting skills.

His mother…


Not unlike a number of other men in this world, Woody Allen’s attitude toward kids changed when he got his first chance to actually hang around with them.

He had always been so absorbed in his work, primarily as a filmmaker, that he had “zero interest” in adding children to his life.

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Mia and Woody. Woody holding Dylan.

But once he got into a relationship with Mia Farrow, who had a battalion of kids and wanted more, he found they could be surprisingly interesting and fun.

That evolution in Allen’s parental attitude seems to be one of the few points on which Allen and Farrow agree…


Before you get to whether you loved or hated Rush Limbaugh, which is the first place pretty much everyone goes, it’s worth remembering that this pitched battle wouldn’t even be taking place if it weren’t for an indisputable truth:

Rush Limbaugh was really, really good at what he did.

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Rush at the Excellence in Broadcasting microphone.

Limbaugh, who died Wednesday of lung cancer at the age of 70, was a radio host. …


Marian Anderson did not want to become a political symbol. She just wanted to be a singer.

She ended up being both and frankly, it was partly her own fault.

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At the Lincoln Memorial, Easter Sunday 1939.

She became such an extraordinary singer that it was impossible for her not to slam into the barricades that too much of America maintained against black folks of all colors and professions in the first half of the 20th century.

Once she slammed into them, she helped break more than a few of them down, a journey that’s chronicled beautifully in Marian Anderson: Voice of Freedom, a two-hour documentary premiering…


Later in her career, Mary Wilson of the Supremes would incorporate a cool bit into her stage shows.

She’d tell the audience she was going to do a medley of her Supremes hits. When the band struck up “Baby Love” or “The Happening” or one of the many others, Wilson would sing the part she sang on the record: an “ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh” or “aah-aah-aah-aah” or whatever harmony helped frame Diana Ross’s lead vocals.

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Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross.

It was a quasi-joke she shared with the audience, self-effacing in such a good-natured way that it didn’t diminish the real contribution Wilson made to arguably the most…


As we all are aware, no American is supposed to do anything this Sunday that is not related to the Super Bowl.

The evening is for the game and the daytime is preparing for the game. Making food, making sure Uncle Ray has his picks in for the pool, making more food.

It’s your basic unofficial American holiday, and if we can’t have the traditional mass gatherings this year, let’s make a wild guess that millions of people will find some way to gather in some form anyway.

So the last thing you might expect to get scheduled for this…


When I heard the latest death news Friday, that original Animals guitarist Hilton Valentine had passed away at the age of 79, I naturally had to listen to “House of the Rising Sun.”

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Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine and Chas Chandler.

That was easy enough, because I have the whole song embedded in my otherwise rapidly faltering memory. I may forget my wife’s name before I forget how, in the fall of 1964, “House of the Rising Sun” coaxed way more sound than should have been possible from my Realistic transistor radio or the tiny speakers in our sky blue 1963 Ford Falcon.

As a bonus back then…


If you were hunting for portrayals of strong black women on movie or TV screens in the early 1970s, the modest number of candidates at least covered a range of choices.

On one end of the scale, you had action hero Pam Grier in Foxy Brown or Coffy, whose trailer described Grier’s character as “the baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!”

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Cicely Tyson as Miss Jane Pittman.

Somewhere on the other end you had Cicely Tyson.

In the 1972 film Sounder, Tyson played Rebecca Morgan, a 1930s woman raising a family of good citizens by being smart and strong and passing those notions on to…

David Hinckley

David Hinckley wrote for the New York Daily News for 35 years. Now he drives his wife crazy by randomly quoting Bob Dylan and “Casablanca.”

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