Farewell to an extremely interesting & diverse actress: Karen Black dies at 74 July 1st 1939 – August 7th 2013

I’ve always been a big fan of Karen Black. I can’t tell you why here in a brief tribute. I’ve just been strangely drawn to her over the years. She’s got a unique quality that’s very hard to define…


I didn’t even realize we share the same birthday. I’m really sad as so many of us are, at the tragic loss of Karen Black who apparently suffered for the past few years from a rare type of pancreatic cancer.

I don’t want to take this time to post a trailer with her being chased by the little African Zuni doll that torments her feverishly in Dan Curtis’ Trilogy of Terror TV Movie 1975

I’ll only mention loving her Mrs Allardice in the very eerie and compelling Burnt Offerings ’76 that co-starred Bette Davis also by the culturally prolific Dan Curtis who always had his finger on the pulse of television’s best campy horror.

She’s known for her excursions into the horror and thriller genres that’s true but Black was a truly diverse actress.

Karen Black has so many performances to her credit that you should just go to IMDb and see for yourself the amount of work she’s done over the years. Not the least of which is her iconic role as quirky waitress Rayette Dipesto in Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces in ’70 or even her sympathetic Myrtle Wilson in Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby in ’74.

I had the privilege of corresponding with Karen Black through email a few years back, when a musical piece I wrote for one of her last films, an indie women in prison film called STUCK. Angels in Concrete almost made it into the picture but was cut at the last minute.

She was so receptive and gracious to me. She even called me Joey. It meant a lot to me that she took the time to answer my note. She had been touring with her cabaret show singing at the time. I didn’t even know she’d been ill.

I feel like we’ve lost a part of film culture, and I’m so sad that she suffered and died so young. She had a lot of things to do on this earth yet…

Thanks for giving us some memorable performances Karen Black, and thanks for your graciousness to me and your very unique style. We’ll miss you…

photo via Michael Musto Village Voice


8 thoughts on “Farewell to an extremely interesting & diverse actress: Karen Black dies at 74 July 1st 1939 – August 7th 2013

  1. Yes great tribute and so kind of her to contact you too, wonderful personal memory for you. Despite not making it BIG big, to me and many she was one of the most interesting and memorable actresses of her era

    1. I’ll always have a fond memory of her kind words to me. And yes, she was truly such an interesting actress that was always on the periphery but was very compelling at the same time… I often prefer those kinds of actors
      thanks for the nice comment too.

  2. Joey, we’re all sad about the amazing Karen Black’s passing; she was a remarkable lady indeed. I’m glad you got the chance to work with her, and that it was a great experience for you (and why not? Everyone loves you here and in Bloggerland!) I admit my favorite among her films was the underrated FAMILY PLOT, though that might also be my love of Hitchcock talking. :-) At least we still have her amazing body of work to remember her by.

    1. I’m actually going to watch Family Plot this weekend and a few other Karen greats just to tribute her. I feel so bad that she suffered so. And while we often remark about the most obvious actors who leave an indelible mark on our experiences as film lovers, it’s times like these when the character actors or often underrated stars pass that we remember their contributions. Thanks for sharing your kind words here.

  3. Had the unforgettable pleasure of meeting Karen Black while waiting on line in a bank on Sheridan Square & Seventh Avenue South back in the 80’s. I was wearing my faded orange Bowie ‘Low’ tee shirt and she started a conversation with me saying how much she loved that album. A wonderful and warm human being with the two of the most intense eyes in the world.

    Thanks for honoring her in such a beautiful way. May she rest in peace.

  4. This is a wonderful tribute to Ms Black. She was a compelling screen presence, as you pointed out.

    Thanks for sharing that lovely story about the music you wrote for her last film and how gracious she was.

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