Lena Horne, who was the first black performer to be signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio and who went on to achieve international fame as a singer, died on Sunday night at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in New York. She was 92 and lived in Manhattan.
Her death was announced by her son-in-law, Kevin Buckley.
Horne might have become a major movie star, but she was born 50 years too early, and languished at MGM in the 1940s because of the color of her skin, although she was so light-skinned that, when she was a child, other black children had taunted her, accusing her of having a ?white daddy.?
Horne was stuffed into one ?all-star? musical after another ? ?Thousands Cheer? (1943), ?Broadway Rhythm? (1944), ?Two Girls and a Sailor? (1944), ?Ziegfeld Follies? (1946), ?Words and Music? (1948) ? to sing a song or two that could easily be snipped from the movie when it played in the South, where the idea of an African-American performer in anything but a subservient role in a movie with an otherwise all-white cast was unthinkable.
?The only time I ever said a word to another actor who was white was Kathryn Grayson in a little segment of `Show Boat?' included in ?Till the Clouds Roll By? (1946), a movie about the life of Jerome Kern, Horne said in an interview in 1990. In that sequence she played Julie, a mulatto forced to flee the showboat because she has married a white man.