The beauty of my book Forgotten Hollywood Forgotten History is its tie between the historical aspects of our great nation with Hollywood’s studio era. The African American struggle to portray characters of substance and avoid nagging stereotypes is something I chose to explore in a chapter devoted to Eddie “Rochester” Anderson. One of the most prominent and eloquent spokespersons in this area was Lena Horne.
Photo by Carl Van Vechten (1941)
More than just a jazz singer, Horne was a gifted actress, and a bona-fide star of stage, screen, and Civil Rights. She overcame the short-sighted fears initially displayed by studio bosses. Among the issues she tackled throughout her career included: press releases disputing her race; her acceptance as a Black person by White America simply because of her light skin; segregated minor roles in films that didn’t involve the plot of the movie just to showcase her voice; and the unfounded accusation she was a Communist.
However, bright spots would survive as part of her legacy. Director Vincente Minnelli gave Horne a starring role in his all-Black motion picture for MGM called Cabin In The Sky, which also featured Ethel Waters and Eddie Anderson. She also is known for her interpretation of the American standard Stormy Weather. She would live to see her personal ongoing fight for Civil Rights reach the White House with the election of Barack Obama.
Lena Horne died on Sunday in New York. She was 92.
Causes Manny Pacheco Supports