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Explore how accurate the movie The United States vs. Billie Holiday is



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How Accurate is The United States vs. Billie Holiday?
When a movie is based on historical events, we can’t help but wonder:
How much did they get right?
Keep watching to learn the true story behind The United States vs. Billie Holiday.
Did Billie Holiday have a drug problem?
By the mid-1940s, Billie Holiday was spending about $500 a week on drugs (with inflation, over $9,000 in today’s money).
She was a frequent drinker and user of marijuana, opium, cocaine, and especially heroin.
When arrested and forced to stand trial for narcotics possession, Holiday requested to be sent to a rehabilitation facility.
Instead, she was sent to a West Virginia prison and forced to detox alone.
Was Billie Holiday bisexual?
Billie Holiday was open about having sexual relationships with men and women.
Roy Eldridge, a jazz trumpeter who had a brief affair with Holiday, claimed their relationship ended “when Billie found herself in love with a girlfriend,” and Billie herself talked about sleeping with women during her time in prison.
The romantic relationship with actress Tallulah Bankhead portrayed in this film has long been rumored but was never confirmed by Holiday or Bankhead.
Was Billie Holiday targeted by the federal government?
Head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger specifically targeted Black jazz musicians while handling white drug users gently. He even intervened in one of Judy Garland’s fights with her studio, insisting she be sent to rehab.
Holiday received her first threat from the bureau shortly after she first sang “Strange Fruit,” a musical protest of lynching, to a nonsegregated audience.
In 1959 Holiday was arrested for drug possession for the final time from her hospital bed.
Denied methadone treatment and again left to detox without adequate health care, Holiday died under federal watch at age 44.
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