Lena Horne: A Rising Actress In The 1940's

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Lena Horne Lena Horne was a rising actress in the time period of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Like many other actresses at the time, her career had many twists and turns, but she soon proved herself as a distinguished Hollywood star. Yet, there are a couple differences in Lena’s experience compared to that of her peers like Ava Gardner and Judy Garland. Lena was a light skinned African American who refused to play the role of servants, prostitutes, or “bumblingly idiots” typically given to black actors, which made it difficult to find jobs, but caused her to forge her own path and radicalize the industry for people of color. Lena grew up in Brooklyn, New York, with a gambling father and one of the first known ‘mom-agers’. To help her family’s income, she quit school at age 16 and joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, one of the premiere black night clubs. Eventually she ended performing a a club called the “Little Troc” and it was here that she was first discovered by MGM. In 1942, she became the “only black actress to be signed to a full studio contract in the 1940’s”(Longworth 1:35). MGM was known for star making, and put Lena straight on the assembly line, giving her a makeover to “look like Hedy Lamar, M-G-M’s Viennese…show more content…
She held her own in an industry that cast her off, in a studio that kept her as a token, and in a society that was too close minded for her progressive thinking. She learned how to take criticism and bounce back after constant rejection and unequal treatment, qualities that were much needed in a time when the industry was very limited for people of color. In You Must Remember This, Longworth put it best when she said: “in an age when black film actresses were confined either to low-budget “race movies” or to play maids or whores, Horne was the screen’s first Negro goddess and bowed to no one”
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