Actress Karen Black, star of such films as Five Easy Pieces and Trilogy of Terror died today in Los Angeles. She was 74.
Born in 1939 in Illinois, she studied acting at Northwestern University until she dropped out and moved to New York. Summer stock and theater were Black's staples, eventually debuting on Broadway in 1961. Her first major film role was in Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now. Black is best known to "mainstream" audiences for her roles in films like Five Easy Pieces (a role for which she was nominated for an Oscar), Easy Rider, and Nashville, which represented a time when independent films were emerging as a viable, respectable segment of the film world.
Black's career took a "turn" in 1975 when she took the lead in Trilogy of Terror, a made-for-TV anthology film. (The "turn" reference comes from Hollywood Reporter, which to me comes off dismissive, as if she wasted her career. Of course, Black herself admitted it was a "mistake" when, in 2008, she told the Chicago Tribune, "I can tell you what happened, but it was sort of like a mistake. It’s like I went on a bad path and couldn’t find my way back.") And yet, her resume contains a long list of comedies and dramas well after Trilogy of Terror - she has over 150 film credits.
Of horror movies, Black starred in Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot; haunted house film Burnt Offerings; Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars; Larry Cohen's It's Alive III; Fred Olen Ray's Haunting Fear; and Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses. Other, more forgettable horror flicks include Out of the Dark, Evil Spirits, Mirror Mirror, Children of the Night, Auntie Lee's Meat Pies, Children of the Corn: The Gathering, Soulkeeper, Curse of the Forty-Niner, Oooga Booga, and Dr. Rage.
Karen Black had been diagnosed with cancer in 2010, and her condition quickly deteriorated. In June she was transfered to a nursing facility in Los Angeles, where she passed earlier today. Her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, announced her death on his Facebook page.