Born this day in history: Lena Horne, the very famous singer, actress and Civil Rights activist.
You will be fascinated at what you didn't know about her. Horne's was a complicated, colorful and substantial life. I've written before that her fame and her thorny relationship with her mother could inspire a Broadway musical story as strong as Gypsy.
Other Arthur Freed musical productions that boast Lennie Hayton's work are Meet Me in St. Louis, Good News, Ziegfeld Follies, The Barkleys of Broadway, Till the Clouds Roll By and Words and Music. Those last two films include deluxe numbers by Mrs. Hayton, Lena Horne.
Lena starred in a Broadway musical with a fellow MGM veteran, Ricardo Montalban. It had a score by Harold Arlen and E.Y., Harburg, the men who wrote all the songs for The Wizard of Oz.
But several years later, she really came into her own in a one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music.
For this hit Broadway show, Lena Horne was honored with a special 1981 Tony Award.
Larry Moss is a most highly-respected and highly-sought after acting coach. He coached Michael Clarke Duncan to an Oscar nomination for The Green Mile, he coached Hilary Swank to two Oscar wins for Best Actress in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby and he did the same for Helen Hunt who won her Best Actress Oscar for As Good As It Gets. He was so in demand that he put his lessons in book form. In The Intent to Live: Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor, he writes about Lena Horne. He places her one-woman Broadway show performance in a category with Marlon Brando's iconic work and Rudolf Nureyev's inimitable ballet dancing. He urges new actors to buy the CD of that Lena Horne show, listen to the life she gives each song -- and use her one-woman show recording as a master class in acting. Get his book and read all about it.
I was part of a press conference held when Lena Horne arrived in Milwaukee. She graciously acknowledged me, as she did all black people in the room. This was a different time -- and Milwaukee -- so there were not many black entertainment reporters in the room. In the early 1980s, I was the city's first and only black person who was doing weekly film reviews on local TV in addition to celebrity interviews.
Her manager contacted me via the TV station.
To make a long -- and wonderful -- story short, Lena Horne offered my mother a job when Horne was on the next stop of her tour. To meet with Mom, she flew her out first class and put her in a nice room in the same hotel where she was staying. She treated my mother well.
This was a major moment in our Rivers Family history. I'm writing the rest of the story for a book project I'm pitching.
Lena Horne paid more attention to me and my work than some of my ex-broadcast agents did. Wow.
Here's some movie trivia for you: For years, her son-in-law was acclaimed movie director Sidney Lumet (The Pawnbroker, The Hill, The Group, Murder on the Orient Express, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Wiz).
Check out those books by James Gavin and Larry Moss. Learn more about the late, great Lena Horne.
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