Provided you possess a working set of eyes and ears, there can be no doubt that this is a star-making performance...
And it was. But with an asterisk - despite her fair skin, Lena Horne was still considered "black", and therefore spent most of her time under contract at MGM appearing in solo performances easily elided for presentation in the south. Had she come along a few decades later, Horne would've been unstoppable. But even in an era of extreme racial intolerance, Horne still managed to break through to the mainstream - that is, before she began to express her political views (she was extremely active in the Civil Rights Movement). Though Horne didn't disappear completely from public view, her career in movies was effectively finished.
When you watch that above performance from STORMY WEATHER, your awe is undercut somewhat by the frustrating realization that Horne never got a chance to build on it because of the color of her skin. True, she went on to have a massively successful recording career, and bounced back strong from the blacklist in the '60s, but her prime was lost due to the ignorant attitudes of the '40s and '50s - an era in which she should've thrived as an actress.
Aside from STORMY WEATHER, her other truly memorable film portrayal was of temptress Georgia Brown in Vincente Minnelli's CABIN IN THE SKY.
Of course, for many Gen X-ers, this was our introduction to Lena Horne...
For Release: May 10, 2010
Turner Classic Movies to Pay Tribute to Singer-Actress Lena Horne Friday, May 21
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will dedicate the Friday, May 21, primetime lineup to paying tribute to legendary singer-actress Lena Horne, who passed away yesterday at the age of 92. The night’s collection will feature three films with defining Horne performances. Also included is one of Horne’s favorite films, the 1943 John Garfield drama The Fallen Sparrow.
8 p.m. The Duke is Tops (1938), Horne’s film debut, featuring performances of the songs “I Know You Remember” and “Don't Let Our Love Song Turn Into a Blues.”
9:30 p.m. Cabin in the Sky (1943), Horne’s favorite among her own films. Eddie “ Rochester ” Anderson and Ethel Waters star.
11:15 p.m. Panama Hattie (1942), an example of the type of role Horne was frequently forced to play. Her songs include “Just One of Those Things” and “The Sping.”
12:45 a.m. The Fallen Sparrow (1943), starring John Garfield and Maureen O’Hara in the story of a former Spanish Civil War prisoner searching for the truth about the death of a friend. A tremendous fan of Garfield , Horne counted this film among her favorites.
“There was never anyone quite like Lena Horne as an entertainer, a presence or a trail-blazer,” said TCM host Robert Osborne. “We’ve been shortchanged only by the limited number of worthwhile roles she was given to play in movies. But she certainly gave us 100 percent of her remarkable talent in those she did make. We’re also very proud at Turner Classic Movies that she was one of our loyal TCM viewers.”
Turner Classic Movies is a Peabody Award-winning network that presents great films, uncut and commercial-free, from the largest film libraries in the world. Currently seen in 85 million homes, TCM features the insights of veteran primetime host Robert Osborne and weekend daytime host Ben Mankiewicz, plus interviews with a wide range of special guests. As the foremost authority in classic films, TCM offers critically acclaimed original documentaries and specials, along with regular programming events that include The Essentials, 31 Days of Oscar and Summer Under the Stars. TCM also stages special events and screenings, such as the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood ; produces a wide range of media about classic film, including books and DVDs; and hosts a wealth of materials at its Web site, www.tcm.com. TCM is part of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company.
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner company, creates and programs branded news, entertainment, animation and young adult media environments on television and other platforms for consumers around the world.