Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne died yesterday.

Ms. Horne died in New York City at age 92. The world legend is used so often, it has lost some of it's meaning.

She was a legend.

The New York Times ran a piece about her life and her work.

A couple of lines jumped out at me:

Ms. Horne might have become a major movie star, but she was born 50 years too early, and languished at MGM in the 1940s because of the color of her skin, although she was so light-skinned that, when she was a child, other black children had taunted her, accusing her of having a “white daddy.”

Ms. Horne was stuffed into one “all-star” musical after another — “Thousands Cheer” (1943), “Broadway Rhythm” (1944), “Two Girls and a Sailor” (1944), “Ziegfeld Follies” (1946), “Words and Music” (1948) — to sing a song or two that could easily be snipped from the movie when it played in the South, where the idea of an African-American performer in anything but a subservient role in a movie with an otherwise all-white cast was unthinkable.

She had been singing at the Manhattan nightclub CafĂ© Society when the impresario Felix Young chose her to star at the Trocadero, a nightclub he was planning to open in Hollywood in the fall of 1941. In 1990, Ms. Horne reminisced: “My only friends were the group of New Yorkers who sort of stuck with their own group — like Vincente, Gene Kelly, Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, and Richard Whorf — the sort of hip New Yorkers who allowed Paul Robeson and me in their houses.”

Since blacks were not allowed to live in Hollywood, “Felix Young, a white man, signed for the house as if he was going to rent it,” Ms. Horne said. “When the neighbors found out, Humphrey Bogart, who lived right across the street from me, raised hell with them for passing around a petition to get rid of me.” Bogart, she said, “sent word over to the house that if anybody bothered me, please let him know.”


Diana Strinati Baur said...

Oh, the stories she could tell. What an interesting, multi-dimensional life she lived. What a talent. I love the Bogart story. A beautiful, beautiful woman. May she rest in love and peace.

Simone said...

I just posted a tribute to Ms. Horne as well. She was an inspiration because she lived her life as she saw fit and by doing so re defined the expectations of color for both sides of the equation so that there was a middle ground for all to stand on. She will be missed.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

What a beautiful, classy woman - and her version of Stormy Weather is still the best.

dalia said...

this made me sad to hear. unfortunately my first real exposure to the late ms. horne was through shows like sesame street and the cosby show (dr. huxtable had a long-standing crush on her), but i thought she was breathtaking, even in my youth.

she was elegant, classy, and aloof in a way that i still aspire to (and fall short, with my gregarious, off-colour, slightly offensive self). light-skinned or not, she was a black woman who fought hard to be recognized for her talents (and for the rights of other black actors/tresses and artists) and i think that is something that all of us as should recognize and be thankful for.

she paved the way.

thank you, lena.

Kim B. said...

What a beautiful, beautiful lady. Today, just seeing some (comparatively recent) footage of her discussing her career, I thought . . heck forget singing, I could listen to that lady just TALK. She had THE most beautiful voice.

I'm not from the Deep South but from a part of the country where no doubt if those films were played sadly her songs were snipped too. So sad and for too many people probably still the case today.

An American trailblazer.

glamah16 said...

What a full life she had full of great opportunties and tragedy as well. We should all take a page or two from her book on how she dealt with life.I remember my mother took me to see her in some performance as a kid. What style!