She died tonight at a hospital in Manhattan. She was 92. The modern-day world knew her best as a singer. But Lena Horne was the first black performer signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio — in 1942 she appeared in Panama Hattie for MGM where she languished in mostly musicals, her film career thwarted by the color of her skin. She started in the chorus at The Cotton Club, graduated to Broadway and then the movies. Her last film was 1978’s The Wiz. She came back to Broadway to win a Tony Award for her 1981 one-woman show: “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music”. But she gained her status as a living legend primarily as a recording artist and nightclub singer. One-time New York Times‘ Hollywood correspondent Aljean Harmetz has penned a wonderfully detailed obituary here.
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