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Movie Mom

Tribute: Lena Horne

posted by Nell Minow

Lena Horne, who graced our planet with her exquisite beauty, smoky sensuality, and stunning musicality, died yesterday at age 92.

Ms. Horne was the first African-American to sign a major studio contract, in the 1940’s. It specifically provided that she would never have to play a maid. She started singing at the Cotton Club when she was only sixteen years old. She had major roles in the earliest studio films featuring an all-black cast, “Cabin in the Sky” and “Stormy Weather,” named for her signature song. She was a star of movies, television, night clubs, theater, and recordings, and was awarded both four Grammys, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Kennedy Center Honor.

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Wikipedia notes that she

was never featured in a leading role because of her race and the fact that films featuring her had to be re-edited for showing in states where theaters could not show films with black performers. As a result, most of Horne’s film appearances were stand-alone sequences that had no bearing on the rest of the film, so editing caused no disruption to the storyline; a notable exception was the all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, although one number was cut because it was considered too suggestive by the censors. “Ain’t it the Truth” was the song (and scene) cut before the release of the film Cabin in the Sky. It featured Horne singing “Ain’t it the Truth”, while taking a bubble bath (considered too “risqué” by the film’s executives). This scene and song are featured in the film That’s Entertainment! III (1994) which also featured commentary from Horne on why the scene was deleted prior to the film’s release.

And during the Red Scare, she was black-listed and not allowed to appear in films. But she continued to work for civil rights, and refused to perform for segregated audiences. Her example of courage and integrity and her matchless voice will continue to inspire us.

  • bird

    She was just gorgeous, with a radiant smile and a great voice. And what strength she had to stand up to the forces of hate and support freedom. A standing O for Lena Horne.

  • Lamar Cole

    Lena Horne was a lovely lady and always a class act.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Beautifully said, Lamar. Many thanks.

  • Alicia

    Yes, Lena Horne was amazing. I’ve had her picture as “background” on my computer for the past few days, and also recall the way that the great Tom Lehrer referenced her in one of his satiric songs, “National Brotherhood Week.”

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Alicia! I love the idea of having Ms. Horne as your computer wallpaper. And I was so pleased to hear this great tribute to Lehrer, one of my favorites, on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126189232

  • Alicia

    Thanks for the link, Nell. Watching the video clip of Lehrer performing “Werner Von Braun” made my day!

  • Alicia

    That’s also a great clip of Horne singing “Stormy Weather.”

  • ELAINE KILSHAW

    We have lost a great Lady. I was bought up with listening to her records and seeing her on film and feel priveledged for this.
    To come through all the horrible discrimination that she endured with absolute dignity, was something I admired deeply.
    I live in the UK where she was so loved and admired.
    At least her memory will remain for future generations.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks for a beautiful comment, Elaine. Much appreciated.

  • iris

    so sad,we will miss you lena ,dennis and gary……..hope we will see you again,such great teachers,in their own way,you will be always in our hearts and mind.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you so much, Iris. Teachers is just the right word.

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