‘Five Easy Pieces’ Actress Karen Black Dies At 74

Longtime Hollywood actress Karen Black, who appeared in some of the great films of what was coined “The New Hollywood,” which started with the counterculture movement of filmmaking in the late 1960s, has died at the age of 74, reports CBS News.

Black’s husband, Stephen Eckelberry, confirmed the news via a Facebook post on today. Black passed away from complications of cancer.

Black, with her piercing eyes, jet black hair, and thick lips, had the kind of visage and versatility which endeared to projects that were A-list, like Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces (in which she netted a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for her role in that picture as the ditzy and careless waitress girlfriend to Jack Nicholson’s character), and a country star with a mean streak in Robert Altman’s 1975 masterpiece Nashville (in which she, like the rest of the cast, actually sang their own songs), and also projects that were downright Z-list (Killer Fish, Channel Solitaire, Killing Heat, and other direct-to-video before the term existed cinematic flotsam and jetsam), and all in between.

The actress could handle the character of the bottom of the barrel schlock film with the same ease as she could the top notch ones in the top notch films, and it added to her allure and Hollywood gravitas. She absolutely ran the gamut of films from the dramatic, to the comedic, to the mundane, the bizarre, and almost every other genre one can think of, and the end result was over 100 films on her resume (The Great Gatsby, Alfred Hitchcock’s final film Family Plot, The Day of the Locust, and so many more, including many made-for-TV movies).

Her fan base ran from highbrow critics of films to the elitist forms of the lowest common denominator of film zealot. It’s that mixture of all types and stripes that should keep the memory of Karen Black alive in Hollywood lore for decades to come.

From Stephen Eckelberry’s Facebook page:

It is with great sadness that I have to report that my wife and best friend, Karen Black has just passed away, only a few minutes ago. Thank you all for all your prayers and love, they meant so much to her as they did to me.

Karen Black – RIP
July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013

[Source via CBS News]

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