Lena Horne was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 30, 1917. Lena always had ambitions of becoming a performer. At the age of 16 she was hired as a dancer at the Cotton Club in Harlem.
Lena made her film debut in "The Duke Is Tops." She later appeared in such films as "Cabin In The Sky," "Stormy Weather" and "The Wiz." The first African-American female performer to land a long-term contract with a major studio, MGM, Lena made her mark in a career that was nevertheless hampered by prevailing racial attitudes, with some exhibitors (especially in the South) excising her deliberately bracketed song solos from films before showing them. Due to the attitudes especially in the South during the early days, many of Lena’s scenes in other films were cut out when shown in the South.
Because of her friendship with actor/singer Paul Robeson, Lena was blacklisted for a time in the early 1950s. It would not be until 1969 that Horne would again have an acting role in the film "Death of a Gunfighter" in which she played Richard Widmark's mistress.
In 1981 Lena had her greatest triumph with the Broadway show called "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music." The show ran for 14 months, won a special Tony award and the soundtrack won two Grammy awards. It became the standard against which all one-person shows are measured. In 1982 she took the production on a very successful cross-country tour.
Lena has been married twice: from 1937 to 1944 to Louis Jones with whom she had 2 children, Gail and Teddy and bandleader Lennie Hayton from 1947 until his death in 1971. Her daughter Gail Lumet Buckley, who was married to director Sidney Lumet, is an author and journalist who wrote the book about the Horne family called "The Hornes: An American Family." She also wrote "American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm." Her son Teddy passed away at the age of 30.
Lena's film credits include the following:
- The Wiz (1978)
- Death of a Gunfighter (1969)
- Meet Me In Las Vegas (1956)
- Duchess of Idaho (1950)
- Words and Music (1948)
- Till The Clouds Roll By (1947)
- Mantan Messes Up (1946)
- Boogie Woogie Dream (1944)
- Two Girls & A Sailor (1944)
- Broadway Rhythm (1944)
- I Dood It (1943)
- Stormy Weather (1943)
- Swing Fever (1943)
- Thousands Cheer (1943)
- Cabin In The Sky (1943)
- Panama Hattie (1942)
- The Duke Is Tops (1938)
Check out the following sites for additional information about Lena:
Class Act: Lena Horne
Denny Jackson's Lena Horne Page
American Masters: Lena Horne
Lena Horne@African Publications.com
Lena Horne@The Internet Movie Database
Online NewsHour Interview with Lena Horne
The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts
Lena Horne News
Lena Horne News, Interviews & Updates