In the above photo are band leader/pianist/singer/actress Hazel Scott (23) and singer/actress Lena Horne (26). These talented beauties are posing for a quick photo op during the filming of the 1943 musical I Dood It! where they appeared and performed as themselves and not as written characters. It was Scott’s first film appearance!
These two sirens of song and screen paved the proverbial road for African-American women singers and entertainers in America.
Lena Horne and Hazel Scott were pioneers and standard bearers of Black beauty in the American mainstream. Their image on stage and under the bright lights was embraced by all and allowed them to ascend beyond Black genre cinema and entertainment during an era of perpetual Jim Crow and segregation . . . as long as they kept quiet about the state of race relations. However, Scott and Horne were unable to keep quiet. In there own way, they participated and held significant roles in the struggle for civil rights. For this, they were shunned and maligned by the very forces that once welcomed them into the arena of mass appeal.
Scott’s career suffered and never regained the heights it once held in the mid-century when she was falsely accused of being a Communist sympathizer. Meanwhile, Horne’s career stagnated as Hollywood distanced themselves from her as she continuously made alliances with outspoken leaders of the Civil Rights movement. Her career never soared as high as it should have.
There is much more that you should know about the lives of these two pacesetting women. If you want to know more on the amazing musical genius of Hazel Scott before she posed for the above photo, her marriage to Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and later her ‘exiled’ time in Paris, you have to read pianist and biographer Karen Chilton’s book Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist, from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC. Equally, as well, if you want to know more about Lena Horne’s life, her controversial marriage, her struggle to stay embedded in entertainment, and how she used and resented her beauty, you really need to read James Gavin’s book Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne.
In the end, both Scott and Horne defined the very definition of Black beauty and sophistication in the public as necessary requirements for crossover appeal, which still exist today (See Beyonce, Alicia Keys, and Jennifer Hudson).
Black beauty and Black music telling its story since day one in America!
Enjoy the remaining days of BMM!
Take a look at Scott and Horne’s kick ass scene: