Lena Horne, Electrifying Singer, Dies
Lena Horne, the singer and actress who died Sunday at 92, cut a singular path through modern culture.
She was the first black actress to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio (MGM in 1942) and the first black actress to be popularly accepted in roles that were as glamorous as any bestowed on the studio's other top singing talent. She was beautiful, to be sure, and was quickly made a pin-up for (black) wartime soldiers.
But almost as rapidly as she rose to international fame, she quickly became disillusioned with her groundbreaking career. Her appearances in movie musicals were often scissored from the final cut when the films ran at theaters in the segregated South. She said she experienced jealousy from unexpected quarters -- black performers in Hollywood who depended on servant and jungle native parts for their livelihood. And most of all Ms. Horne grew to resent playing the role of a "good little symbol."
A major triumph of her career was her 1981 one-woman Broadway show, which attracted a great deal of attention and praise. She regarded the show as the most liberating moment of her life, saying her identity was clear to her because "I no longer have to be a 'credit,' I don't have to be a 'symbol' to anybody. I don't have to be a 'first' to anybody. I don't have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I'd become. I'm me, and I'm like nobody else."
On that note, perhaps it's best simply to revel in her talent.
Her earliest screen appearance was from this 1938 movie short called "the Duke Is Tops." Fascinating to see her before the Hollywood glamour machine took over.
And we'd be remiss to forget her signature song, "Stormy Weather," a tune originally written for Ethel Waters. Water reportedly resented Ms. Horne for, in essence, usurping the tune from her.
Please leave your memories of Ms. Horne below.
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