Hidden Gems | Shirley

21 03 2013

Shirley

Beautiful Ethiopian-Irish actress, Ruth Negga may be unfamiliar to many here in the States but over in the U.K.she has built an impressive list of credits and it is just a matter of time before she gets her big break in America.

Negga co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in the indie drama, The Samaritan and will appear in the upcoming Steve McQueen period film, 12 Years A Slave. Her biggest role to date is a film that was never released in the states, the TV biopic of one of Britain’s most famous singers, Shirley Bassey.

Bassey recorded three legendary songs for the James Bond franchise, including the iconic Goldfinger. Her colorful life is chronicled in Shirley: The Early Years, which begins in 1938 when mixed-race baby Bassey, her mother and eight siblings are living in a poor area of Cardiff after her father is imprisoned for sexual offenses. The teen-aged Shirley will help the family finances bringing her big, impassioned singing voice to local clubs and, in 1954, aged seventeen, she moves to London impressing agent Mike Sullivan.

To further her career however she must give up her illegitimate daughter Sharon to be raised as her own child by Shirley’s sister Iris. After winning over the famously hostile Glasgow Empire audience Shirley has arrived. Impresario Jack Hylton stars her in the West End and she has hit records. She rides out gutter press interest in Sharon and, after a row with Mike, takes fledgling film producer Kenneth Hume as her agent and husband. Not only does he fail to further her career but turns out to be a homosexual.

Yet Shirley is a born survivor, weathering her divorce from Ken in 1965 and, decades later, still every inch a star, belting out the autobiographical song My Life.

Negga does an amazing job and we can’t wait to see more of her work on this side of the pond!

Watch the movie, below:

Shirley: The Early Years, Part 1

Shirley: The Early Years, Part 2

Shirley: The Early Years, Part 3

Shirley: The Early Years, Part 4

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