Lena Horne is an American
singer/actress who was born in 1917. She debuted at New York's Cotton Club
in 1934. Ms. Horne was the first black actress to be signed to a long-term motion picture
studio contract in 1942 when she was signed for seven years by MGM
. Lena Horne appeared in 13 films during her years at MGM, but with the exceptions of the movies Cabin in the Sky
and Stormy Weather
(Ms. Horne was loaned to Fox by MGM for this production), she appeared in specialty numbers without any speaking lines.
Despite being Jerome Kern's choice to play Julie in the 1951 film production of Show Boat, the role went to Ava Gardner instead, who wore the makeup specially created for Lena by Max Factor, "light egyptian". Frustrated that her movie career was only ever bringing her bit parts, Horne left Hollywood and returned to singing on the night club circuit, where she was a popular attraction despite her controversial marriage to white composer Lennie Hayton.
Ms. Horne was blacklisted and called a subversive in the early fifties and was subsequently not asked to appear in any films until 1956, when she appeared in Meet me in Las Vegas.
Ms. Horne has continued to make occasionally film appearances and albums, and in 1980 appeared in the Tony Award winning Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and her Music. Ms. Horne currently resides in New York City.