Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne

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About Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne

(1969, NBC)

History was made on the night of September 10, 1969 when actress and singer Lena Horne became one of the first African-American women to headline her own primetime network TV variety special.

“I don’t know why they call it a ‘special,’” Horne joked. “I guess it sounds better than calling it a very short series.”

The then-52-year-old, who began her career in the chorus line at Harlem’s famed Cotton Club, makes a charmingly elegant emcee. She welcomes soul singer O.C. Smith, who sings "Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife” and joins Horne for a duet of “Didn’t We.”  Lena also duets with The Fugitive star David Janssen on a comedic rendition of “I Remember It Well” and dances a funky number with Claude Thompson’s dance troupe. She also sings a medley of current pop hits, staged as if it were a rehearsal. (Horne reminds us that it’s not, in one of the show’s many “meta” moments.)

But the highpoint of the program is a soulful rendition of “Stormy Weather,” a song Horne made famous in the groundbreaking 1943 musical of the same name. Monsanto Night Presents Lena Horne gives us just a taste of what made the singer, dancer, actress and activist the legendary figure she remains today.

Notable guest stars: David Janssen, O.C. Smith, The Claude Thompson Dancers   

Produced by Bob Henry and Ralph Harris  

Cast

Lena Horne, Lennie Hayton
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