In Memoriam: Karen Black

Karen Black, the actress whose portrayals of unstable, fragile women won her wide acclaim, just as her subsequent roles in so-bad-they’re-good horror films won her a cult following, died yesterday in Los Angeles of complications from cancer. She was 74.


Despite the B-movie roles that defined her later career, Karen Black — after whom the New York performance artist Kembra Pfahler named her punk band, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black — will be most remembered for her earlier work, for which she won a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award, and an Academy Award nomination.

Karen Black opposite Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces (1970), playing Rayette Dipesto, the pregnant and suicidal girlfriend…

Karen Black in Easy Rider (1969), her breakout role as an acid-tripping New Orleans prostitute…

Karen Black as the doomed Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby (1974), for which she won a Golden Globe…

Karen Black won a Grammy Award for writing the country songs Memphis and Rollin’ Stone, which she performed herself in the television drama Nashville…

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