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Stunning singer/actress Lena Horne was the first black performer to be given the full glamour girl star-making treatment. But as the years went on and her studio failed to make much use of her, Horne started feeling like a token — and she wasn’t wrong. Today we’ll detail Horne’s experiences rising through the ranks of the black nightclub world to MGM, where she remained under contract through the 1940s, and found herself competing with Ava Gardner for parts. Next week, we’ll talk about Horne’s post-MGM career and her struggle to stay off the blacklist.
This episode originally debuted in February 2015.
There are several excerpts in this episode from the autobiographical stage show Lena mounted in the early 1980s, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” Some of these excerpts come from a television version of the show that’s been posted on YouTube; others are from the official soundtrack album.
Other audio-video sources used in this episode, not including music:
Lena Horne on the Tonight Show
Lena Horne on Good Morning America, 1981
Clip from Cabin in the Sky
Jubilee! Episode #89, from Armed Forces Radio Service, July 24, 1944