Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne
At long last, the first serious biography of entertainment legend Lena Horne -- the celebrated star of film, stage, and music who became one of the first African-American icons.
At the 74th annual Academy Awards in 2002, Halle Berry thanked Lena Horne for paving the way for her to become the first black recipient of a Best Actress Oscar. Though limited, mostly to guest singing appearances in splashy Hollywood musicals, "the beautiful Lena Horne," as she was often called, became a pioneering star for African Americans in the 1940s and fifties. Now James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, draws on a wealth of unmined material and hundreds of interviews -- one of them with Horne herself -- to give us the defining portrait of an American icon.
Gavin has gotten closer than any other writer to the celebrity who has lived in reclusion since 1998. Incorporating insights from the likes of Ruby Dee, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, Arthur Laurents, and several of Horne's fellow chorines from Harlem's Cotton Club, Stormy Weather offers a fascinating portrait of a complex, even tragic Horne -- a stunning talent who inspired such giants of showbiz as Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt, and Aretha Franklin, but whose frustrations with racism, and with tumultuous, root-less childhood, left wounds too deep to heal. The woman who emerged was as angry as she was luminous.
From the Cotton Club's glory days and the back lots of Hollywood's biggest studios to the glitzy but bigoted hotels of Las Vegas's heyday, this behind-the-scenes look at an American icon is as much a story of the limits of the American dream as it is a masterful, ground-breaking biography.
protect themselves. Many stars are basically shy. It comes across as aloof. The whole world is basically strangers to them, and they get invaded like gangbusters.” Smith eventually began to perceive Horne’s turmoil. “We had extolled Lena for her great sex appeal, her divine gifts and her gorgeous glamour. We hadn’t dealt with her as a black woman; we didn’t want to, perhaps. We were simply thrilled to know such an international star, one who transcended her race. But Lena wanted us to love her
Do” they stomped and whistled at her Aretha-like wails and Tina Turner shimmies. “I can make people laugh,” said Horne in amazement to John Corry of the Times. “When I hear the audience laugh, I think, ‘Oh, my God! I’m funny!’” Horne was on the high of a lifetime. So were her producers, as The Lady and Her Music became one of Broadway’s hottest tickets. “I thought that show was a very smart piece of showbiz,” said Marcia Ann Gillespie. “It served the purpose of Lena projecting the Lena she
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electricians, grip men, people behind the scenes. There was definitely segregation and discrimination rampant.” Walter White was on the case. He hardly looked the part of a civil rights champion; White was one-eighth Negro and had blond hair, blue eyes, and skin lighter than some of his Caucasian friends’. But the racism of Hollywood so disgusted him that he’d been campaigning against it for years. In 1940 he’d found an ally in Wendell Willkie, a wealthy lawyer who’d just lost the presidential
the New York Amsterdam News about what “a long way” Negroes had come in the film industry, and how “encouraged” she felt. Maybe Hollywood could find a place for her at last. Her hopes zoomed even higher when she learned of a movie in the works at Fox. Pinky would tell the story of a light-skinned young black woman who passes in order to enter a discriminatory nursing school in Boston. Race hidden, she starts an affair with a white man. The term “pinky” was a popular putdown in the black community