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January 31, 2015

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Lena Horne, One of the Greatest and Most Versatile Performers, Dies at 92

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The groundbreaking actress who paved the way for Tinseltown beauties such as Halle Berry, Dorothy Dandridge, Angela Bassett and for versatile entertainers such as Diana Ross, Della Reese and Diahann Carroll died on Sunday night.

Lena Horne – best known for being the first black performer signed to a long-term contract by a major Hollywood studio – passed away at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.

The Brooklyn NY native was 92.

Her death was confirmed to the media by her son-in-law, Kevin Buckley.

She was one of the greatest and most versatile entertainers who ever lived.
Horne, who starred in numerous movie musical such as 'Ziegfeld Follies,' 'The Duke Is Tops,' 'Cabin in the Sky,' 'The Wiz' and most notably 'Stormy Weather,' has been mostly reclusive within the past decade.

In 1997 she appeared in a commercial for Gap Jeans.

Most recently, there were reports that in the wake of Janet Jackson's 2004 Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, the Horne family preferred another actress to portray her in a proposed television biopic to be produced by Oprah Winfrey. Twelve-time Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys' name has been bandied about.

There's also talk of a Broadway-bound musical version of 'Stormy Weather,' which Emmy Award winner Leslie Uggams has already been attached to.

Coming up in an era where America didn't recognize black people as equal, Horne and contemporaries such as Paul Robeson, refused to settle for the status quo. Both became staunch advocates for equality; they often put their careers on the line for justice. Horne believed she had been blacklisted for her outspokenness of how black soldiers were treated during World War II.

Moving away from the racial dynamics of Hollywood studio movies during the early 1950s, she flourished in television, theater and in music.

A revered chanteuse who performed with great jazz luminaries such as Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw, Horne released a string of recordings for the RCA Victor label. Her recording, 'An Evening With Lena Horne,' was released in 1995 via Blue Note Records. It won the Grammy Award for best jazz vocal performance.

While Horne is known for breaking down barriers in Hollywood, she also blazed trails in Broadway with the 1934 musical 'Dance With Your Gods,' 1957's 'Jamaica' and the Tony Award winning tour de force 'Lena Horne: The Lady And Her Music,' which also netted two Grammy Awards in 1982.

"She's in transcendent voice and, at age 63, as beautiful and elegant as ever," Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times review of the show in 1981.

"I'm me, and I'm like nobody else," Horne said in a 1997 PBS interview.

Horne's roots continue to run deep: Her former son-in-law Sidney Lumet is an acclaimed director ('12 Angry Men,' 'Serpico') who helmed 'The Wiz,' the glitzy $40 million spectacle so many know and love, which she starred Horne as Glinda the Good Witch. Her granddaughter, Jenny Lumet, wrote the screenplay to the 2008 film 'Rachel Getting Married,' which starred Anne Hathaway. The sometimes-actress most recently interviewed 'Twilight' star Robert Pattinson for Details magazine, during which he made controversial remarks about race and sex. She was married to rising actor Bobby Cannavale. Another granddaughter, Amy Lumet, was married to best-selling author P.J. O'Rourke.

A cause of death was not known at deadline.
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Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

Lena Horne

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Lena Horne

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Lena Horne

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 10: Singer Lena Horne attending "Andrew Young For Congress Support Committee Dinner Dance" on June 10, 1970 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, New York.

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 7: Comic Bill Cosby and singer Lena Horne attending 70th Annual Spingarn Awards Hosted by NAACP on December 7, 1985 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City, New York.

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

Lena Horne and Cher

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 4: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Lena Horne (R) and daughter Gail Lumet pose for a photograph November 4, 1990 in New York City.

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

4th May 1956: Lena Horne, the sultry American singer who appeared in several musicals in the 40's, and a regular of the 'Cotton Club', trying on a dress. (Photo by William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images)

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

NEW YORK CITY - JUNE 10: Singer Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte attending "Andrew Young For Congress Support Committee Dinner Dance" on June 10, 1970 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City, New York.

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

(L-R) Singers Lena Horne and Jessye Norman. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/DMI/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Lena Horne: A Look at The Lady

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