In a long string of celebrities who have passed away recently, another legend, Lena Horne, is gone. The jazz singer, actress and civil rights activist passed away in New York on Sunday night. No details of her passing have yet been released, though she was in New York Presbyterian Hospital, in Manhattan, at the time.
Horne’s fair, striking looks, as well as talent, ensured that she was one of the first African American performers in the entertainment business in the 1940s, though she got her career started at 16 as a chorus girl at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Her 7-year contract with MGM helped break the ground in Hollywood for other black actresses. For Horne, though, Hollywood was not a welcoming place. Her roles were often secondary and easily edited out.
While Horne’s film acting career was often limited to musicals, she is know for a few classics, including her role as Gilnda the Good witch in The Wiz. Another is 1943’s Stormy Weather, with an all-black cast, and one listen to the clip below will tell you why her enchanting voice was used in so many soundtracks. Her second film appearance, at least according to IMDB, 1943’s Cabin in the Sky, was thanks to director Vincente Minnelli, father of songstress Liza Minnelli. Most of the rest of Horne’s entertainment credits are on the stage, including Broadway and as a cabaret performer.
Other recent celebrity passings include Lynn Redgrave, who had battled cancer and died last week at 67.