10 May 2010

Entertainer Lena Horne dies

8:29 pm on 10 May 2010

Entertainer Lena Horne, who battled racism in a frustrating effort to become Hollywood's first black leading lady, has died. She was 92.

The New York Times, quoting her son-in-law, Kevin Buckley, said Horne died on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

Renowned for her beauty and sultry voice, she was born in New York in 1917 and went to Hollywood in the 1930s. Her career as an entertainer spanned more than 60 years.

While she never became a major movie star, she is credited with breaking the ground for black actresses to get bigger roles in Hollywood and was one of the first to get a long-term contract with a major studio, signing with MGM in 1932.

In 1943, she played Selina Rogers in the all-black film musical Stormy Weather, the title song of which was to be a major hit and her signature tune, the BBC reports.

Other film credits included Cabin in the Sky and Words and Music.

She decided to move back to New York and became a singing star in nightclubs and theaters and on television. She won two Grammys.

In 1981, she received a special Tony Award for Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, the Broadway show in which she sang and discussed the ups and downs of her life.

Later, she embraced activism and became a voice for civil rights in the United States.

Horne and her first husband, Louis Jones, married in 1937 and divorced in 1944. They had a son, Teddy, who died of kidney problems, and a daughter, writer Gail Lumet Buckley.

In 1947, Horne married Lennie Hayton and stayed with him until his death in 1971.