Here are 10 things you should know about Ethel Waters, born 122 years ago today. Water was a monumental figure in American show business, achieving success in vaudeville, on Broadway, on radio, in movies, on television and in the recording industry.
The wonderful Lena Horne was born Lena Calhoun Horne 99 years ago today in Brooklyn, New York.
- Lena Horne was raised in large part by her grandparents while her mother pursued a career as an actress (her parents split when she was a toddler).
- Horne quit school at age 14 and by 16, she was dancing (and later singing) at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem.
- MGM, worried that Horne would be perceived as white onscreen, had makeup artist Max Factor create a line of makeup for her called Dark Egyptian.
- Horne was turned down at least twice—Pinky (1949), Show Boat (1951)—for film roles as light-skinned black women who pass for white. In both cases, white actresses were cast and had their skin darkened with makeup.
- Horne was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.
- Horne’s favorite actor was John Garfield.
- During World War II, Horne refused to perform before racially segregated audiences of American soldiers. This was against Army policy, but she held her ground, putting on a show for a mixed audience of African-American soldiers and German POWs.
- Accused of having Communist sympathies because of her civil rights activities dating back to the 1940s and her enduring friendship with Paul Robeson, Horne was blacklisted from films and became a cabaret performer.
- Horne was born on the same day and in the same city—Brooklyn, NY—as actress Susan Hayward.
- Horne worked with Eleanor Roosevelt on anti-lynching laws and was a frequent guest in the Kennedy White House.
Lena Horne Did-You-Knows
Happy birthday, Ms. Horne—wherever you may be!