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Top TV and film picks of the week: Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things, Julieta, and Normal People

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

Tonight, BBC2, 9pm

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Remarkable performer: Ella Fitzgerald

Remarkable performer: Ella Fitzgerald

Remarkable performer: Ella Fitzgerald

She was, perhaps, the greatest jazz singer of them all, a remarkable performer whose versions of the Great American Songbook, and in particular the works of Cole Porter, have never been bettered.

But for Ella Fitzgerald, fame came at a great cost, to her personal life, health and happiness, and the wonder is that she emerged to stardom from a childhood tougher than most of us would like to imagine. This new documentary charts her path to fame, and uses interviews and the recollections of friends to paint an intimate of one of the truly great musical artists of the 20th century.

Born in Virginia in 1917 to unmarried parents, Ella Jane Fitzgerald was raised in Yonkers, New York, by her mother Tempie and a Portuguese stepfather, Joseph De Silva. She had a precocious talent for singing and dancing, and fell in love with jazz at an early age. In 1932, her mother was killed in a car accident, and for a year afterwards she was left in the care of her stepfather, who may have been abusing her. But things looked up in 1933, when she moved to Harlem to live with her aunt. In 1934 she won a talent contest at the Apollo Theater, and soon after was singing with big bands.

Through the 1930s, 1940 and 1950s, Ella sang with everyone, from Duke Ellington and the Ink Spots to Dizzy Gillespie, and her gorgeous vocals sold millions of albums around the world. She became a civil-rights campaigner, and used her fame and talent to break down barriers wherever she could.

But everyone who knew her described Ella as shy. She yearned for a quiet life with her husband and adopted son, but work often got in the way. At a time when Ella was possibly the biggest singing star on the planet, a friend, the great jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, described her as "the loneliest woman in the world". Ill health dogged her later years: she was diabetic, and ended up having her legs amputated. But her voice and phrasing are immortal: 24 years after her death, Ella's records still sell like hotcakes.

Films of the week

Julieta

Tonight, BBC2, midnight

In Pedro Almodóvar’s lush melodrama, a middle-aged woman’s equilibrium is shattered when she meets an old friend of her estranged daughter on the street.

Crawl

Sunday, Sky Premiere, 8pm

When a young woman’s father goes missing during a Florida hurricane, she finds him trapped in his basement — along with a very large alligator. Amusing thriller, with Kaya Scodelario.

Murder on the Orient Express

Monday, RTÉ1, 9.30pm

Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this likeable adaptation of Agatha Christie’s novel. The great Belgian detective is aboard the luxury train in a snowstorm when a body is discovered.

The Great Beauty

Monday, Film 4, 11.25pm

Sumptuous Paolo Sorrentino drama starring Toni Servillo as a successful Roman journalist who begins to regret the lost opportunities of his youth.

The Shawshank Redemption

Tuesday, Sky Drama, 8pm

Hugely enjoyable Stephen King adaptation starring Tim Robbins as a man convicted of murder who protests his innocence and vows to escape. Morgan Freeman co-stars.

Carrie

Thursday, TCM, 10.25pm

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Carrie (1976)

Carrie (1976)

Carrie (1976)

When a shy teenage girl with telekinetic powers is mocked by her classmates, she plots an elaborate revenge. Sissy Spacek gives a star-making turn in Brian De Palma’s horror classic (below).

TV picks

Lifestyle

Hitched at home

Monday, Channel 4, 9pm

Virtual Marriage

London couple Patrick and Louise’s wedding plans have been scuppered by Covid-19, but Fred Sirieix has a plan to let them to marry in style.

Drama

Normal People

Tuesday, RTÉ1, 10.15pm

A bombshell

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(Enda Bowe/BBC/PA)

(Enda Bowe/BBC/PA)

PA

(Enda Bowe/BBC/PA)

In the final episodes, Marianne has an unpleasant row with her brother before Connell drops the bombshell that he’s been invited to study in New York.

Reality

Unsung Heroes

Wednesday, RTÉ1, 9.35pm

Carers sing

In this new two-part documentary, conductor and choirmaster David Brophy forms a brand new choir with family carers from across Wexford.

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