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The Great Talented Lena Horne

Updated on October 29, 2013
Lena Horne
Lena Horne | Source

I have always admired the dignity, the artistry, the musician, the dancer, the actress known as Lena Horne. Besides being a singer for over 60 years, she sung up to the time of her death. She was a woman of color that broke down the barriers of segregation in entertainment making the way possible for newer generations to enjoy the fruits that could be harvested in Hollywood, and the music business, all while keeping one's integrity intact with pride and achievement.

A Jazz legend, a beauty, classy, sexy, who broke racial barriers, a trailblazer that pushed hard for equality and justice, these are accolades that will forever be linked with Lena Horne the artist..

Born 1917 died 2010 at the age of 92...

Ms Horne is notable because she holds the distinction of being the second woman of color to have signed with MGM and the first woman of color in Hollywood to gain popularity and a following.

A civil rights activist, Ms Horne came from a upper middle class family of well to do blacks in Brooklyn. She was exposed early to the activist process of civil rights by her grandparents.


Lena Horne candidly discusses her experiences in Hollywood many of which led to her focusing on the stage and her nightclub performances. Although, she had numerous bit roles in mostly white cast films she struggled with the obvious racism. A number of these movies showcased her talents as a singer and dancer, yet they were subject to a quick snip by an editor when they were shown down south.

Typically, she did huge roles in all black musicals, 1943, like Stormy Weather, on loan to 20th Century Fox and Cabin in the Sky for MGm directed by Vincente Minnelli. Apparently successful because of good direction.

Interesting note, her father according to Ms Horne didn't appreciate the fact that his daughter could only play maids when he could hire one for her.

  • Stormy Weather,
  • Cabin in the Sky, (The devils handmaid)
  • The Wiz (Glinda the good witch)

Bit roles

  • Show Boat (1946), Julie, MGM
  • Panama Hattie (1942), MGM
  • Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

and many others from short films to feature films

Broadway / Theatre

  • Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1939
  • The Lady and her music


While on contract to MGM, Ms Horne also made radio appearances and did her act in night clubs. In 1945, she was dubbed the nation's top Negro entertainer, by a critic and screenwriter known as Frank S. Nugent because of the various salaries she was collecting.

Ms Horne also worked extensively with several large orchestras and bands with famous composers.

She's sung duets with great artists, like Tony Bennet, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Harry Belafonte,


  • Sesame street
  • Flip Wilson Show
  • Interview - CBS, Ed Bradley
  • Tonight Show
  • What's My Line
  • Sanford & Son
  • Commercials - Gap

Ms Horne was a favorite and was invited on lots of TV variety shows as well, like The Ed Sullivan show, The Dean Martin show and the Judy Garland show and many others.

Star quality

According to Ms Horne the war and the black servicemen made her a star, since she was the pin up girl for soldiers of color.

She lost her role in entertaining black troops because she openly spoke against their treatment.

Signature songs

Two of Ms. Horne's signature songs became Stormy weather from the same titled movie and If you can believe from the Wiz, the black version of the Wizard of Oz starring Diana Ross.

  • Stormy Weather
  • If you believe

Although she had an extensive repertoire of songs, it seems these were the two favorites that she included in her performances and reworked at every given opportunity.

Career start

Ms Horne started out as a dancer at the age of sixteen as a part of the Cotton Club chorus line. In the fall of 1933 she was apparently dragged to an audition by her mother. This was before her move to California.

  • Dancer
  • Singer
  • Actress

Tidbit, because of her outspoken political views she was embroiled in part of the Red scare and became blacklisted in Hollywood.



Ms Horne did a lot of moving around as a child, living with grandparents, her mother, a uncle and with her father.

Grandparents in Brooklyn.

Her mother in Georgia or wherever her black theatre troupe took her, Horne's mother was an actress as well.

Her uncle in Fort Valley Georgia.

Her father in Pittsburgh.


Ms Horne has an extensive repertoire of music, movies and show business productions that include radio appearances and record recordings.

She was always known to be outspoken, but a consummate professional.

Ms Horne is known to have won awards for her showmanship and entertainment, even receiving an honorary doctorate from Howard University, when she hadn't even graduated from high school.

She was the first African American female to have been nominated for a Tony in 'Jamaica'. Ms Horne later won the Tony award -special citation, for her one woman show.

Re Cap

  • African American, creole
  • Daughter of middle class blacks
  • Activist
  • Entertainer
  • Married twice, her second marriage was kept secret for the first years because of racial hatred
  • Mother of two children, boy and girl
  • Dancer,
  • Nightclub performer
  • Actress
  • Musician
  • Elegant
  • Prolific
  • Outspoken
  • Tony
  • Honorary doctorate


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