Ray (film)

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Ray poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Taylor Hackford
Produced by Taylor Hackford
Stuart Benjamin
Howard Baldwin
Karen Baldwin
Screenplay by James L. White
Story by Taylor Hackford
James L. White
Starring Jamie Foxx
Kerry Washington
Clifton Powell
Harry Lennix
Terrence Howard
Larenz Tate
Richard Schiff
Regina King
Music by Craig Armstrong
Ray Charles
Cinematography Paweł Edelman
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Bristol Bay Productions
Anvil Films
Baldwin Entertainment Group
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • October 29, 2004 (2004-10-29)
Running time
152 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[1]
Box office $124,731,534[1]

Ray is a 2004 biographical film focusing on 30 years[2] of the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles. The independently produced film was directed by Taylor Hackford and stars Jamie Foxx in the title role; Foxx received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.

Charles was set to attend an opening of the completed film, but he died of liver disease in June, several months before its premiere.[3]


Raised on a sharecropping plantation in Northern Florida, Ray Charles Robinson went blind at the age of seven, shortly after witnessing his younger brother drown. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own way in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard. Touring across the chitlin circuit, the soulful singer gained a reputation and then exploded with worldwide fame when he pioneered incorporating gospel, country, jazz, and orchestral influences into his inimitable style.



The film's production was entirely financed by Philip Anschutz, through his Bristol Bay Productions company. Taylor Hackford stated in a DVD bonus feature that it took 15 years to make the film. He later clarified in the liner notes of the soundtrack album that it took that time to secure financing.

Charles was given a Braille copy of the film's original script; he objected only to a scene showing him taking up piano grudgingly, and a scene implying that Charles had shown mistress and lead "Raelette" Margie Hendricks how to shoot heroin.[3]

Ray debuted at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.


Main article: Ray (soundtrack)

The following songs were used in the film:


Box office[edit]

Ray was released in theaters on October 29, 2004 on a budget of $40 million. The film went on to become a box-office hit, earning $75 million in the U.S. with an additional $50 million internationally, bringing its world wide gross to $125 million.[1]

Critical reaction[edit]

The film received mostly positive reviews. Most of the praise went to Jamie Foxx's performance for which he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor. The film however, did receive some bad reviews, with critics complaining that the film suffered from a mediocre screenplay buoyed by powerful performances.[4] As of March 2014, Ray has a certified fresh rating of 81% based on 197 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

Music critic Robert Christgau said that "Foxx does the impossible—radiates something approaching the charisma of the artist he's portraying ... that's the only time an actor has ever brought a pop icon fully to life on-screen."[5]


Differences from noted events[edit]

In the film's credits, it's stated that Ray is based on true events, but includes some characters, names, locations, and events which have been changed and others which have been "fictionalized for dramatization purposes." Examples of the fictionalized scenes include:

  • In the film, Ray's brother George drowned to death in a metal tub in 1935 and Ray didn't attempt to rescue him, assuming he was just playing. Though George did drown to death in a metal tub in 1935, Ray did try to pull George out, but was unable to successfully do so due to George's large body weight.[6] Also in this scene, Ray's mother discovers George drowning while calling the boys in for dinner. In reality, Ray ran inside to inform her what happened after he failed to pull George out.[6]
  • In the studio scene where Charles is taught the "Mess Around," he is told it is in the "key of G." The "Mess Around" is actually in the key of E flat.
  • In the film, after reaching Seattle, when he arrives at the club where he is going to audition, Ray meets a teenage Quincy Jones that very night. This event is just partly true, as Ray actually met Quincy a few days after arriving.
  • Throughout the film, it is suggested that Ray's depression, and heroin addiction, was fueled by nervous breakdowns he had over the deaths of both George and his mother as well as his blindness. Though the death of his mother did give him a nervous breakdown and was thought to be a leading cause of his depression,[7] Ray never had a nervous breakdown over either the death of George or his blindness.[7]
  • Though the statement near the film's end that Charles kicked his heroin addiction after undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital in 1965 was true, it is not mentioned that he would often use substitutes for heroin, such as gin and marijuana, throughout much of the remaining years of his life.[7][8]
  • In the scene where his backup singer and mistress Margie Hendricks informs Ray she is pregnant with his child, Ray, out of loyalty to Della, suggests she should have an abortion. Margie soon leaves Ray and pursues a different singing career after she decides to keep the baby and he refuses to abandon his family, move in with her and welcome the baby into his life. In reality, Hendricks did conceive a child with Charles and abandoned him for refusing to leave Della, but Charles never asked her to have an abortion and welcomed any child he conceived, whether from Della or any mistress, into his personal life.[8]
  • It is also presented in the film that Ray is having a party in Los Angeles sometime in 1965 when he is informed that Margie died of a drug overdose and is devastated by the tragedy. In reality, her death from an alleged drug overdose did reportedly upset Charles, but it did not occur until 1973.[9]
  • In the scene where Charles is about to enter a segregated music hall in Augusta, Georgia in 1962, a group of civil rights activists protesting just outside the hall successfully persuade him not to perform. Charles then declares that he will no longer perform in segregated public facilities and in response, the Georgia state legislature passes a resolution banning Charles from ever performing again in the state. In reality, a group of civil rights activists did successfully persuade Charles to reject this invitation, but the advice came in the form of a telegram rather than a street protest.[8] Charles also did make up for the gig, was never banned from performing in Georgia and still accepted invitations to perform at segregated public facilities.[8]
  • During the final scene in the film where Charles' version of "Georgia on My Mind" became Georgia's state song, Charles is congratulated by his wife Della and a resolution is also passed lifting the lifetime ban he received in 1962 after he declared he would no longer perform at segregated public facilities. In reality, by the time "Georgia on My Mind" became Georgia's state song in 1979, Charles and Delia had already divorced and she wasn't present when Charles performed at the Georgia State Legislature.[8] Since he had never been banned from performing in Georgia in the first place, no such resolution was ever passed.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "Ray (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  2. ^ Director Taylor Hackford noted this focus on the years 1935–1965 in his DVD commentary for the film; the only exception to this focus is the film's final scene featuring Julian Bond and set in the Georgia State Capitol in 1979, a scene Hackford included at Charles' specific request.
  3. ^ a b "Music legend Ray Charles dies at 73". AP Associated Press. October 10, 2004. Retrieved August 31, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Ray (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixter. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  5. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 5, 2005). "All This Useless Beauty". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved March 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=5707
  7. ^ a b c http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/life_and_art/2004/10/its_a_shame_about_ray.html
  8. ^ a b c d e f http://www.stfrancis.edu/content/historyinthemovies/ray.htm
  9. ^ http://married.answers.com/famous-couples/the-truth-about-margie-hendricks-death

External links[edit]