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PHOTO ESSAY

Motown

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Diana Ross

Diana Ross in 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Photofest.

In 1972, Berry Gordy moved Motown headquarters to Los Angeles in an attempt to enter the movie business. Motown Productions was born, and within the year the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues was released, written by label executive Suzanne De Passe and starring Supremes frontwoman Diana Ross. (Billy Dee Williams and a not-yet-famous Richard Pryor also had major roles.) Though critiqued for its formulaic—and often embellished—plotline, the film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Ross. Ross worked with Motown Productions on two other films, Mahogany (1975), which was directed by Gordy, and The Wiz (1978), a reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum's classic also starring Michael Jackson, Lena Horne, and Pryor.

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