“Diana Ross has turned into this year’s blazing new musical actress!” -Gene Shalit, on Lady Sings The Blues
We’ve all heard that Diana Ross was originally slated to appear in the film The Bodyguard with Ryan O’Neal, and that the singer-actress worked for years to produce a film in which she would star as Josephine Baker. And, of course, Ross once owned the rights to the foreign film Diva, with plans to remake it in the States. But there were other proposed film projects over the years which never materialized for Miss Ross, and a recent search into the Jet magazine archives turned up some tantalizing clues as to what might have been.
A quick gossip item in the December 7, 1972 issue of Jet, published in the immediate aftermath of Diana’s hugely successful debut as a dramatic actress in Lady Sings The Blues, mentions talk of a movie co-starring no less a fellow diva than Elizabeth Taylor, in a project called Black And White. It also reports that Diana was being considered for a film adaptation of the Broadway musical No Strings, which had won Diahann Carroll a Tony Award in 1962.
A second article published a year later, on December 20, 1973, announces the upcoming film Mahogany, which would become Diana’s second hit movie. But it also mentions the development of a project called Sesame Lindy starring Ross and Billy Dee Williams, and another (untitled) project to take place in New Orleans. Sesame Lindy sounds especially interesting, as the article indicates Diana would have starred as a…bail-bondswoman (!).
Reading these articles is fascinating, if not a little bittersweet. Nobody can question the enormous success Diana Ross has experienced over the course of her career, but the full promise of Lady Sings The Blues remains unfulfilled, with only five total film credits to the superstar’s name. Her performance as Billie Holiday remains a stunning achievement, and it should have served as a launching pad for a long, fruitful Hollywood career. That said, the film industry continues to struggle with issues of diversity and inclusion to this day…so it’s probably unrealistic to think Miss Ross (no matter how talented she is) would have been given the same kinds of opportunities as white actresses in the 1970s.
So, we fans are left to wonder…what if? Vote below and let me know which of these never-made films you would have been most excited to see.