|Lena Mary Calhoun Horne (June 1917 - May 2010)|
The Duke Is Tops was one of many "race films"--that is, low-budget films produced primarily for Black audiences--produced through the 1930's, and featured a predominantly black cast. Horne was only 20 years old when the film was produced, but youth didn't make her voice any less powerful or potent. She would go on to sign a contract with MGM studio, making her the first Black performer to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. Despite this achievement, MGM could not offer Horne leading roles due to the prejudice of the day, and many of her film roles were cut out of films when they were shown in theaters due to theater restrictions in some states prohibiting the showing of Black performers. Despite these limitations, prejudices, and set-backs, Horne went on to have a stunning career, one that took her from Hollywood Boulevard to Sesame Street, from a neighborhood in Brooklyn to A Cabin in the Sky, and beyond.