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Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne Hardcover – June 23, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
The clouds rarely lift in this grim, perceptive biography of HollywoodÖs first African-American screen siren. Gavin (Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker) makes clear that much of HorneÖs perpetual frustration stemmed from the racism black entertainers faced in the pre–civil rights era. MGM glamorized her as a darker version of its white starlets, but gave her small roles and singing cameos that Southern theaters could conveniently excise. As a cabaret chanteuse and Vegas headliner, she battled segregated nightclubs that let her sing to, but not drink with, white customers, and racial attitudes tainted her relationships with black audiences and with her white husband and lovers. Still, HorneÖs failures and heartaches seem largely determined by her talent and character. Her movie career, Gavin contends, fizzled more because of limited acting ability than studio perfidy, while a chaotic childhood left her a nasty woman ready to freeze people into oblivion. Indeed, her unhappiness shaped a successful stage persona—a cross between a cobra and a panther devouring her prey—that infused romantic lyrics with scornful irony. As Horne grows from joyless toddler to chilly, bitter diva, GavinÖs clear-eyed account makes her the author of her life, and her pain. Photos. (June)
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"So full of insight into Lena, and the author knows his subject's work. The critiques of her film appearances and her recordings are dazzling passages of insight all on their own.... Talk about something that keeps you turning pages to the very last -- and wishing there was more." -- Liz Smith
"I was transfixed by James Gavin's empathic but clear-eyed biography....The journey of this glorious, complicated, courageous star is an epic American story -- and this serious, luminous book, despite the pain it describes, is an irresistible read." -- Sheila Weller, author of the New York Times bestselling Girls Like Us and Dancing at Ciro's
"... James Gavin offers a fascinating study of a complicated woman and the complicated times that shaped her...he delivers a portrait of a very human artist who is as compelling for her foibles as her accomplishments...By crafting a dense, moving tribute that never dissolves into hagiography, Gavin has proven her point." -- USA Today
"There is good reason for James Gavin's Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne to take up -- when you count the notes, bibliography, discography, filmography and index -- nearly 600 pages. This Lena ... has had a life so rich in ups and downs as to make page after page eventful and suspenseful. This all the more so since the book is also two books in one: a thorough and fluent biography and a history of the slow social rise of black people despite crippling discrimination and stinging humiliationsa history in which Horne's story is embedded, notwithstanding some personal jumps ahead." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Gavin illuminates both the outside and inside of his legendary subject, capturing the awe he felt when first meeting Horne without being blinded by it." -- New York Newsday
"For most of her life, Lena Horne has been a very angry woman. She may have given as good as she got for many of her 92 years, but as related in James Gavin's definitive new biography, she had reason enough....The power of Gavin's biography is that he has clearly labored to separate fact from fiction...Beyond that, she was a complicated woman whose personal struggles with identity were inextricably intertwined with those of African Americans throughout the 20th century. In Gavin's capable hands, Lena Horne's story is both uniquely her own and an integral part of a larger cultural journey." -- San Francisco Chronicle,
"I read this 500-page book in one night. Yes, it's that gripping, marvelously written, so full of insight into Lena, and -- a rarity among even the best celebrity biographers -- the author knows his subject's work... It is impossible to convey its power. It is the syory of one woman and her particular issues of family and career, and it is the story of an era, a movement, a statement about equality. That woman and those issues make this the most compelling read of the year. Hands down." -- wowowow.com
"Gavin, who proved himself a consummate researcher with his previous bio of Chet Baker and the New York cabaret scene encyclopedia Intimate Nights, has really outdone himself with Stormy Weather...Gavin unearths incredible archival material (a skin-lightening cream endorsed by Horne) as well as extensive quotes from friends, fans, family and foes that shed a harsh spotlight on the icy diva. Still, he's careful to contextualize even her worst qualities." -- Time Out New York
Top customer reviews
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James Gavin has done a great job with this book and I wish him and Ms. Horne all the best.
Get the book !!!!!!
If you're interested in any of the following, buy this book:
Life in Harlem at turn of the century up until post WWII
The Cotton Club and the vivid descriptions of so many racial indignities
Life in the '30's in the deep, deep rural South
The Hollywood system post WWII. For example - Ms. Horne was never paired with a man - black or white- of similar age or attractiveness. She was always matched up with men who could be called "seniors", but I know many seniors who still have va-va-voom. Or at least va-va. What I mean to say is that her on screen romances were always with men the studios cast because they felt they were not sexually attractive and therefore, not threatening and(even more offensive) not offensive to white audiences .
The Red Scare and Horne's blacklisting
How years of pain can affect a person lifelong and how hard it is to let to of anger. Or is it possible?
Sad, beautifully written book about a woman who had so much to offer the world and who found humiliation and heartbreak more often as companions.
"Stormy Weather" portrays Lena as a woman with the strength to endure a difficult life and the frailties that made her life difficult and untimately unrewarding. This is a book worth reading.
After reading STORMY WEATHER, I understood more about not only Ms. Horn but the early years of our society and how it related to African Americans.
The story is explosive in that it details Lena's struggles not only with prejudice from society but from within her own selected circle. The author skillfully details the confused arena that Lena Horn was born into.
Although not pleasant, the historical details validly state why the woman had to fight, struggle and feel the need to excel her entire life. Also, played out against the changing times, the reader sees Ms. Horn developing into her own being as opposed to the MGM fantasy.
This is a very insightful,well written and fascinating look not only at one of our greatest performers but society at large.
There were several interesting facts that I learned...her early marriage was doomed by the start. Louis Jones was abusive & shunned for marrying down. She left performing for a short time to be a good wife till she realized she didn't know how (now that's tragic). Lena Horne was inaccurately credited as having been the 1st to sign a long term contract with a major company (but her contract was more lucrative). She was considered to be a "interesting weapon against Hollywood racism". She lived in a state of depression and low self-esteem. She said this on several occasions, "Never hope too hard, it never pans out".
I met Lena Horne at a Delta convention in the late `80's. She was beautiful and very pleasant. I was excited to read about how she joined our wonderful sorority. The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. president Jeanne Noble, persuaded Horne to become an honorary member of DST on Dec. 21, 1958. Noble would help her to change her image and serve as an advisor until the early `70's. There were several other items like relationships, movies, music and family that shocked me but you will have to read the book to find them out.
Most recent customer reviews
I had always wondered by she made a point to keep her legs covered-- always wearing pants suits and long gowns. Now I know from chapter one.Read more