Her voice was a frequent presence on movie soundtracks and her signature tune "At Last" was a staple not just of wedding receptions but also of movie scenes that wanted a shortcut to a strong emotional punch. It's most famous appearance was probably in Rain Man when Tom Cruise teaches Dustin Hoffman to dance. Gary Ross also made memorable use of it in Pleasantville during the scene where pink flower petals rain down on a black and white country drive. Pleasantville was the thing that first turned me on to music of Ms. James and I will always have a soft spot for Ross's film for that reason.
James's finest moment on the big screen is much less widely known. It arrived roughly halfway through Tom Ford's A Single Man during the film's best scene when Colin Firth pays a visit to Julianne Moore who makes one last desperate play to draw her closeted friend into a romance. Moore's character turns on James's rendition of "Stormy Weather" and holds Firth close ignoring his excruciating imperviousness to her seduction. James's voice makes the scene. She had that delicate mix of romance and sadness that to my mind ranks even with Billie Holiday, as well as a titanic strength and emotional wallop all her own.
Watch and listen: