Monday, February 28, 2011


Now recognized as a pioneer of racial equality in film, Lena Horne was an actress, singer, dancer, and human rights activist. Born in Brooklyn, New York to an upper middle class family, her aspirations in entertainment were met with disapproving remarks from her family. Her family was an eclectic mix of ethnicity: African American, Native American, and European, which would present Lena with strict limitations in entertainment and, especially, film. Before entering the film industry, Horne had a successful career in nightclubs, performing at famed clubs such as the Café Society in downtown Manhattan. It was at the Café Society that Horne re-connected with a childhood acquaintance, Paul Robeson, who educated Horne about her African heritage and culture.  Her big break came in the form of a contract with MGM, making Lena Horne the first African American since 1915 to sign a long-term contract with a major movie studio. She quickly became the highest paid African American Woman in the industry. However, her particular look presented unique challenges. Though she was, by heritage, African American, her skin was not dark enough to land her roles alongside other African American actors. She also found herself losing roles in “white” films because the studio wasn’t ready to show interracial relationships. Despite these limitations, Lena Horne had a lengthy career in film, television, and theater. She devoted her life to civil rights movements and political activism. Unfortunately, her radical politics landed her on the blacklist during the Red Scare of the McCarthy Era and she was temporarily unable to find work in Hollywood. However, her perseverance, fierce talent, and tireless spirit, gave her the career she dreamed of as a child.  She overcame her adversities and is now regarded not only as a talented, beautiful movie star, but an archetypal figure in the fight for racial equality. Credits include: Michael Feinstein's American Songbook (TV series documentary) (2010),  A Life in Words and Music (video short) ("The Lady Is a Tramp") (2007), Take the Lead (performer: "I Got Rhythm Take the Lead Remix", "I Got Rhythm") (2006), Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (performer: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas") (2004), The Family Man (performer: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow") (2000), Lolita (performer: "Stormy Weather") (1997), Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (performer: "Stormy Weather") (1997), The Wiz (performer: "Tornado/Glinda's Theme", "If You Believe In Yourself Reprise") (1978), Death of a Gunfighter (performer: "SWEET APPLE WINE") (1969), Meet Me in Las Vegas (performer: "If You Can Dream") (1956), Duchess of Idaho (performer: "Baby Come Out of the Clouds") (1950), Words and Music (performer: "The Lady Is a Tramp", "Where or When") (1948), Ziegfeld Follies (performer: "Love") (1945), Broadway Rhythm (performer: "Brazilian Boogie", "Somebody Loves Me") (1944), Swing Fever (performer: "You're So Indifferent") (1943), Cabin in the Sky (performer: "Life Is Full of Consequence", "Honey in the Honeycomb") (1943), Panama Hattie (performer: "Just One of Those Things" 1935, "The Sping" 1942 - uncredited) (1942), The Duke Is Tops (performer: "I Know You Remember" - uncredited, "Don't Let Our Love Song Turn Into a Blues" - uncredited) (1938).

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