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Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne Hardcover – June 23, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
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"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
Her WWII-era MGM years prove to be a painful case study in racial discrimination at a time when African- American women were portrayed either as "yes'em" maids or mammy-type servants. Horne was the sole exception until Dorothy Dandridge in the 1950's, a beautiful token figure usually posed against a column wedged into big MGM musicals like Panama Hattie and Ziegfeld Follies. She would sing a song independent of the movie's narrative in order to allow studio honchos to edit her out of the film for theaters in the Deep South. Studio chief Louis B. Mayer liked Horne, but he just wouldn't cast her in a role that would have been ideally suited to her talents, Julie LaVerne, the biracial riverboat singer, in the 1951 remake of Jerome Kern's Show Boat. She saw her dream role given to her close off-screen friend, the more marketable Ava Gardner, whose singing had to be dubbed. Horne also lost the title role to Elia Kazan's Pinky to a white actress (Jeanne Crain) who played a black woman passing for white. Gavin asserts that her growing disenchantment with Hollywood dovetailed with her awakening political consciousness in the 1950's when she was blacklisted primarily for her association with supposed Communist sympathizer Paul Robeson.
Horne's second marriage to MGM musical arranger Lennie Hayton, a white Jewish-American, brought enormous pressure to the interracial couple. Her increasing resentment found an outlet in the 1960's when she became active in the civil rights movement, surprisingly favoring the more radical practices of Malcolm X over Martin Luther King Jr.'s more pacifist approach to racism. The downside to her dual focus on career and civil rights was an estrangement from her two children, although she later got closer to her daughter Gail (who was once married to director Sidney Lumet). The author paints an involving portrayal of a complicated woman that dismantles the myths that surround her, and yet, he still celebrates her considerable talents with admirable respect and historical accuracy. If she exaggerated her mistreatment for dramatic effect late in her life, Horne is understandably given license to do so by Gavin. With her mixed heritage, angular Caucasian features and exalted stature, the legendary entertainer became imprisoned by what was expected of her as an African-American. Now 92, she has reason to seal herself from a world that couldn't help her resolve her identity crisis.
James Gavin has done a great job with this book and I wish him and Ms. Horne all the best.
Get the book !!!!!!
"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.
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