Lena Horne - Rotten Tomatoes

Lena Horne



The daughter of an actress and civil rights activist, African-American entertainer Lena Horne was a chorus girl in Harlem's Cotton Club at the age of 16. One year later, she had her first featured role -- as Quadroon Girl -- in the Broadway play Dance With Your Gods. Lena then went on to work as a dancer and singer for Noble Sissles's orchestra, gaining popularity with both black and white audiences, though in keeping with the racial status quo of the '30s, she was denied entrance to all-white facilities and hotels in most of the cities where she headlined on stage. Following her film in The Duke is Tops (1939), Lena was signed as a specialty performer by MGM Studios. In most of her film appearances, Lena would sing in a sequence separate from the plotline and her white costars, so that her scenes could be edited out when shown in certain Southern theatres. She managed to survive on these terms and even won leading roles in two major-studio feature films, Cabin in the Sky (1943) and Stormy Weather (1943) - both of which had all-black casts. Hollywood's attitude towards African-Americans in the '40s was slightly better than in the '30s, but producers still treaded very slowly and cautiously: Lena was allowed romantic interests in her two starring films, but her leading men were middle-aged comedians and dancers like Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Dooley Wilson, and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, so as not to offend those white viewers who felt threatened by handsome black men. Additionally, Lena was allowed to be sexy but not too sexy, lest she arouse dreams of miscegenation in the minds of impressionable white males; her most erotic scene in Cabin in the Sky, wherein she was discreetly "nude" in a bubble bath (the bubbles providing censor-proof camouflage) was removed from the film, not to be seen in public until shown in the 1994 compilation That's Still Entertainment. Idiotic corporate decisions like this only intensified Lena's mistrust of white men, an attitude drummed into her by her mother; yet privately she managed to find lasting happiness as the wife of white musician Lennie Hayton. Lena's career suffered in the '50s, when she had difficulty securing TV work not only because of her race but also because of her friendship with Paul Robeson, the famed black singer who'd embraced Communism. Eventually talent won out over ideology, and Lena starred on Broadway in Jamaka in 1957, following this personal triumph with numerous media and live performances. Still, Lena and her husband found a more hospitable reception when they travelled to France, a country where a mixed marriage did not automatically result in rude stares and snide newspaper commentary. In 1969, Horne returned to films in Death of a Gunfighter, where thanks to relaxed racial tensions she was able to play the former lover of white sheriff Richard Widmark. Still beautiful and in terrific voice, Horne went strong into the '90s, attaining the rare status of Living Legend. She died in 2010 at the age of 92.

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Bing Crosby - Bing Crosby's White Christmas All Star Show
  • Actor
2007
No Score Yet Let's Hear It for the Girls!: Classic Tracks from the Queens of Swing
  • Actor
2006
No Score Yet Let's Hear It for the Girls!
  • Actor
2006
No Score Yet Sarah Vaughan & Other Jazz Divas
  • Actor
2005
No Score Yet Judy Garland - Judy Duets
  • Actor
2005
No Score Yet Jazz Legends: Boogie Woogie
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet Harlem Renaissance
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet The Incomparable Lena Horne
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet Sarah Vaughan & Friends - Swing Era
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet Black Divas of Yesteryear
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet Lena Horne - The Incomparable Lena Horne
  • Actor
2004
No Score Yet The Great American Songbook
  • Actor
2003
No Score Yet Swing With The Duke & King Cole: Rock 'N' Roll Review
  • Actor
2000
No Score Yet Harold Arlen: Somewhere over the Rainbow
  • Actor
1999
No Score Yet Sinatra: Ol' Blue-Eyes
  • Actor
1999
No Score Yet Words and Music
  • Herself
1998
100% That's Entertainment! III
  • Host
1994
No Score Yet Lena Horne - An Evening With Lena Horne
  • Actor
1994
No Score Yet Benny Carter: Symphony in Riffs
  • Actor
1989
No Score Yet Ladies Sing the Blues
  • Actor
1988
No Score Yet Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music on Broadway
  • Actor
1984
36% The Wiz
  • Glinda
1978
No Score Yet Death of a Gunfighter
  • Claire Quintana
1969
No Score Yet Now
  • Actor
1965
No Score Yet The All-Star Christmas Show (Bing Crosby - Bing Crosby's White Christmas USO All Star Show)
  • Actor
1958
No Score Yet Meet Me in Las Vegas
  • Actor
1956
No Score Yet Duchess of Idaho
  • Guest Star
1950
100% Till the Clouds Roll By
  • Julie
1947
75% Ziegfeld Follies
  • Herself
1946
No Score Yet Two Girls and a Sailor
  • Herself
1944
No Score Yet Broadway Rhythm
  • Fernway de la Fer
1944
No Score Yet Swing Fever
  • Herself
1943
No Score Yet Thousands Cheer
  • Herself
1943
No Score Yet Stormy Weather
  • Selina Rogers
1943
80% Cabin in the Sky
  • Georgia Brown
1943
No Score Yet I Dood It
  • Herself
1943
No Score Yet Panama Hattie
  • Herself - Singer in Phil's Place
1942
No Score Yet The Duke Is Tops
  • Ethel Andrews
1938
No Score Yet Harlem Harmonies V. 2
  • Actor
No Score Yet Great Black Women
  • Actor

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT
No Score Yet Great Performances
2000
  • Host

Quotes from Lena Horne's Characters

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