Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne (Hardcover)

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At long last, the first serious biography of entertainment legend Lena Horne -- the celebrated star of film, stage, and music who became one of the first African-American icons.

At the 74th annual Academy Awards in 2002, Halle Berry thanked Lena Horne for paving the way for her to become the first black recipient of a Best Actress Oscar. Though limited, mostly to guest singing appearances in splashy Hollywood musicals, "the beautiful Lena Horne," as she was often called, became a pioneering star for African Americans in the 1940s and fifties. Now James Gavin, author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, draws on a wealth of unmined material and hundreds of interviews -- one of them with Horne herself -- to give us the defining portrait of an American icon.

Gavin has gotten closer than any other writer to the celebrity who has lived in reclusion since 1998. Incorporating insights from the likes of Ruby Dee, Tony Bennett, Diahann Carroll, Arthur Laurents, and several of Horne's fellow chorines from Harlem's Cotton Club, Stormy Weather offers a fascinating portrait of a complex, even tragic Horne -- a stunning talent who inspired such giants of showbiz as Barbra Streisand, Eartha Kitt, and Aretha Franklin, but whose frustrations with racism, and with tumultuous, root-less childhood, left wounds too deep to heal. The woman who emerged was as angry as she was luminous.

From the Cotton Club's glory days and the back lots of Hollywood's biggest studios to the glitzy but bigoted hotels of Las Vegas's heyday, this behind-the-scenes look at an American icon is as much a story of the limits of the American dream as it is a masterful, ground-breaking biography.

Praise For…

"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." --

"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

Product Details
ISBN: 9780743271431
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2009
Pages: 608