Lena Horne was the first black performer signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio — MGM, for whom she appeared in “Panama Hattie” in 1942 — and by the end of World War II was being called the country's top black entertainer. Born in Brooklyn, she went from the Cotton Club chorus to Broadway, then into movies. She became more famous as a singer on records, TV and in concerts. She won a Tony Award for her one-woman show on Broadway in 1981, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.” From the NYT obit:
She had been singing at the Manhattan nightclub Café Society when the impresario Felix Young chose her to star at the Trocadero, a nightclub he was planning to open in Hollywood in the fall of 1941. In 1990, Ms. Horne reminisced: “My only friends were the group of New Yorkers who sort of stuck with their own group — like Vincente [Minelli][, Gene Kelly, Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, and Richard Whorf — the sort of hip New Yorkers who allowed Paul Robeson and me in their houses.”
Since blacks were not allowed to live in Hollywood, “Felix Young, a white man, signed for the house as if he was going to rent it,” Ms. Horne said. “When the neighbors found out, Humphrey Bogart, who lived right across the street from me, raised hell with them for passing around a petition to get rid of me.” Bogart, she said, “sent word over to the house that if anybody bothered me, please let him know.”
Horne died Sunday night in Manhattan, where she lived.
Video: Lena Horne in "Stormy Weather" (1943) on YouTube