The legendary singer, actress, and civil rights activist Lena Horne has died at the age of 92. According to THR, Hollywood’s first African-American leading lady passed away on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Horne became prevalent in film during the 30s and 40s with roles in Cabin in The Sky and Stormy Weather kick-starting a career that would span over 60 years.
Horne begin her stint in Hollywood during a tumultuous time for Black actors. If you weren’t playing a servant you had to be part of the musical scene and she chose the latter. She was stunningly beautiful and had a voice that could stop any passerby in their tracks. According to biographer James Gavin Horne was considered,
“as the Negro beautiful enough — in a Caucasian fashion — for white Americans to accept.” Until then, black women had usually been cast as servants or prostitutes — roles that Horne did not want.
Even though she was a rare exception to the “colored rule” Horne wasn’t content with what Hollywood had to offer so her onscreen career began to fade after 1969′s Death of a Gunfighter. According to her, “The black stars felt uncomfortable out there.” She returned to her New York roots and continued to sing and dance her way to the top earning 2 Grammy awards in the process.
Horne had a long and prosperous life and despite her ups and downs she’ll always be remembered as the sultry vixen who belted out “Stormy Weather” like nobodies business.
Watch Horne’s rendition of the jazz classic…
What’s your favorite Lena Horne film or song?