Actor, dancer, musician, and unofficial “mayor of Los Feliz” Lenny Bluett who played a Yankee soldier in 1939’s Gone With the Wind, has died just a few days shy of his 97th birthday. Bluett also appeared opposite Lena Horne in such films as Cabin in the Sky (1943), Stormy Weather (1943) and Ziegfeld Follies (1945), and worked with Dorthy Dandridge in A Day at the Races (1937). He also can be seen in another Marx Brothers film, The Big Store (1941).
Other film creditors include Spirit of Youth (1938) starring Joe Louis, Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) with Eddie Cantor, State of the Union (1948) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy and A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland.
While working as on Gone With the Wind, he was angered after seeing that the outdoor toilets to be used by the hundreds of extras playing the Civil War soldiers were labeled either “Colored” or “Whites Only.” He and three other African-Americans approached the star of the movie and urged that those signs be removed.
“I knocked on Clark Gable’s door and I said, ‘They gotta get those signs down or we’re all gonna walk. You can’t get four hundred Mexicans out here to look like black people.”
As the story goes, Gable went to director Victor Fleming, and the signs came down.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
The 6-foot-5 Bluett said that he auditioned for the role of Sam, the piano player and singer in the Humphrey Bogart–Ingrid Bergman classic Casablanca (1942), but was turned down. (The role would be immortalized by Dooley Wilson.)
“I was too young, too tall and too good-looking,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2002. “I’m good-looking now — but then I was gorgeous.”
Later, he spent many years as a piano-bar entertainer with the Royal Viking Line, and when a “Rick’s Cafe” opened in the Casablanca city of Morocco in 2004, Bluett was on hand to sing “As Time Goes By.”
Former L.A. councilman Tom LaBonge once referred to him as “the mayor of Los Feliz.”
Survivors include his daughter Nicole and niece Michelle. A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. on Jan. 21 at the First AME Church in Los Angeles.
(Lennie Bluett gets a hug from the owner of Daily Donuts in Los Feliz in 2002)