Home #Hwoodtimes Author Donald Bogle Speak’s on New Book “LENA HORNE Goddess Reclaimed” Out...

Author Donald Bogle Speak’s on New Book “LENA HORNE Goddess Reclaimed” Out October 31st

By: Jenny Castro

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 10/20/23 – Film historian, Turner Classic Movies consultant, and award-winning author Donald Bogle is set to release his new book titled; LENA HORNE Goddess Reclaimed. Featuring an array of gorgeous photos, the book is a biographical account and exclusive look into actress and singer Lena Horne’s personal life and professional career beginning with her upbringing in Brooklyn to her time in Hollywood. Known for iconic films such as Stormy Weather and Cabin in the Sky, (both from 1943), the book also explores her struggles as a Black performer during Hollywood’s studio system era and gives insight into her life post film career. Author Donald Bogle has been a leading historian on Black representation in entertainment, and initially took interest in Hollywood as a child prompting him to explore the world of film leading him to write many books on Black cinema, “I had asthma as a kid, and there were times when I couldn’t go out to play or anything and would be watching television where they did show old movies,” said author, Donald Bogle. “I had gotten really engrossed in these old films and became very excited when I would see an African American on film. Someone like Eddie “Rochester” Anderson or Bill” Bojangles” Robinson with Shirley Temple or Hattie McDaniel and Louise Beavers. So, it started in that way. I was very curious about the Black performers and seeing the way people lived and the attitudes they had,” added Bogle.

Considered Hollywood’s first African American movie goddess, Bogle shares his vision behind his latest book and exploration on Lena Horne’s life, “I’d always been interested in Lena Horne. Initially, the book was to be mostly photographs with commentary and I’ve written about her before in several previous books. As I became more connected to her life, and to what she had experienced such as the tensions and difficulties with the great success she had, I began to write even more than I had anticipated,” says Bogle. Also acknowledging his fascination with Horne’s personal self-awareness, he elaborates, “Throughout her life, she seemed to be reflecting on her life even as a young woman and seemed to be examining it. She had a middle-class upbringing in Brooklyn and lived with her grandparents as her parents had been separated. What she was exposed to then she was always trying to figure out what it meant, and that intrigued me that she had that kind of consciousness. With the changes she went through with the whole Hollywood experience when he was signed by MGM, she really became the first Black woman at the Hollywood studios to be fully glamourized and publicized.”

Before Lena Horne, there had been other African American actresses in Hollywood but who were mainly typecast in “maid” roles. Horne inadvertently changed the narrative of Black women in entertainment paving the way for others in the future, “There had been a couple of women before her,” says Bogle. “There was Nina Mae McKinney in 1929, in an MGM all black film called Hallelujah, and Fredi Washington, who plays the young women who passes for White in the original 1934 film Imitation of Life. Those women had gotten some attention, but Lena was signed to this big contract at MGM and the most powerful of the studios and probably the most glamorous and it was a big deal. It was felt that she could change the image of African Americans in Hollywood film. Most black women and actors had played common servants, and they often were very talented people but there was a limit to what they could do. With Lena Horne, the whole idea was that she would not play maids and so it was a move forward in terms of screen images of African Americans,” added Bogle. In the book, Bogle also touches on Horne’s romantic relationships, friendships, and discrimination she endured throughout her career in Hollywood in which disillusioned the starlet over time.

The book goes into great depth about her career and explores her professional disappointment as Hollywood underutilized her talent and casted her in various musical sequences versus leading roles while at MGM. Through years of thorough research and interviews, Bogle spent countless hours gathering factual information to perfect his book well through the pandemic, “During the lockdown I was confined to my apartment in New York,” says Bogle. “But I’m very fortunate in that because of past books, and research and so forth I really have my own archives now. I have books and files on actors and actresses and film makers. And what I did with Lena, I had interviewed different people in the past. Not specifically about Lena, but about the old Black Hollywood, and Lena’s name always came up. So, I went back to all of that and searched through it, and I used material I hadn’t used before or sometimes I used things in a different way. But I had interviewed Phil Moore who was very important in Lena’s early film career. And Phil Moore was an African American arranger composer at MGM, one of the early ones at MGM and he worked closely with Lena. So, I used information from him and other people like that,” says Bogle. Bogle’s utilization of such sources from people who personally worked with the starlet give the book an extraordinary creative and authentic inside look. Bogle even had the amazing opportunity to meet Horne years ago in which he describes her as “gracious.”

In terms of Horne’s uniqueness and place in Hollywood history, she will always be remembered for both her singing and acting talent and most especially her beauty, “She was absolutely magnificent. There was not a woman in film that looked like her, and there was the way she carried herself.  She had great composure and sensuality. She always managed to have that grace, poise and dignity. And there was a fire underneath that, which really didn’t get a chance to be showcased on film because she didn’t have roles that called for that,” says Bogle. “But she was very appealing, and there hadn’t been anybody like her in the movies. And so, she was unique and brought her presence and particular look and her particular attitude to films and nightclubs. She was a great nightclub performer and brought a fire and vitality to her nightclub performances. There was also one thing about Lena Horne in that she maintained a kind of distance from her audience. The idea was that they could look but they couldn’t touch, and this was really what she felt and communicated, and it just drove her audience wild,” added Bogle.

Earlier this year, Bogle received the 4th annual Robert Osborne Award at the Turner Classic Film Festival in Los Angeles. The award recognizes individuals for their hard work and contributions in preserving classic films.  Bogle has done a tremendous job over the years with his many books depicting the history of Black cinema and continues the legacy of film preservation by teaching at both The University of Pennsylvania and New York University’s School of the Arts. “It was a great honor,” says Bogle when reflecting upon receiving the prestigious award. The award presentation is available via YouTube, and LENA HORNE Goddess Reclaimed will be officially released October 31st, 2023. The book will be available to purchase on the Running Press | Hachette Book Group website, and on Amazon which would make for a wonderful gift for any classic film lover out there!

Running Press | Hachette Book Group

Award Presentation: (100) Donald Bogle Receives the 2023 Robert Osborne Award | TCMFF 2023 – YouTube