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|Also Known As:||Pamela Suzette Grier, Pamela Grier||Died:|
|Born:||May 26, 1949||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA||Profession:||actor, back-up singer, writer, secretary|
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aptation of Ray Bradbury¿s dark fantasy "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1982) and Bruce Dern¿s lover in the underrated sports drama "On the Edge" (1985). Unfortunately, none of these efforts made much of a dent at the box office. Again, Grier buckled down and turned to television for work, where she enjoyed mature and substantive roles on series like "Crime Story" (NBC, 1986-88), which cast her as an investigative journalist. There were also occasional film parts, such as Steven Seagal¿s partner in his first and best film "Above the Law" (1986). Grier also worked frequently on stage, including a Los Angeles production of Sam Shepard¿s "Fool for Love" which won her a NAACP Image Award in 1986. During this period, Grier also endured and survived a bout with cancer that at one point was declared terminal by her doctors.Meanwhile, the arrival of VHS and DVD brought Grier¿s AIP films back for rediscovery from her old-school admirers and a new generation of fans; characters like Coffy and Foxy Brown were quickly adopted by the hip-hop movement as iconic heroes, with one female rapper choosing the latter as her own musical nom du song. The revival of interest in Grier led to minor roles in several films...
aptation of Ray Bradbury¿s dark fantasy "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1982) and Bruce Dern¿s lover in the underrated sports drama "On the Edge" (1985). Unfortunately, none of these efforts made much of a dent at the box office. Again, Grier buckled down and turned to television for work, where she enjoyed mature and substantive roles on series like "Crime Story" (NBC, 1986-88), which cast her as an investigative journalist. There were also occasional film parts, such as Steven Seagal¿s partner in his first and best film "Above the Law" (1986). Grier also worked frequently on stage, including a Los Angeles production of Sam Shepard¿s "Fool for Love" which won her a NAACP Image Award in 1986. During this period, Grier also endured and survived a bout with cancer that at one point was declared terminal by her doctors.
Meanwhile, the arrival of VHS and DVD brought Grier¿s AIP films back for rediscovery from her old-school admirers and a new generation of fans; characters like Coffy and Foxy Brown were quickly adopted by the hip-hop movement as iconic heroes, with one female rapper choosing the latter as her own musical nom du song. The revival of interest in Grier led to minor roles in several films by cult movie-minded directors: Tim Burton reunited her with another blaxploitation icon, Jim Brown, in his sci-fi satire "Mars Attacks!" (1996) while John Carpenter turned her glamorous image on its ear by casting her as a transsexual mobster in "Escape from L.A." (1996). However, one of her most devoted followers, Quentin Tarantino, gave her the role that revitalized her career while paying homage to her screen past.
Grier had auditioned for a role in Tarantino¿s "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, but lost it to Rosanna Arquette. The director, who had committed many of her 1970s films to his vast memory, encountered her a year later and told her that he had a project for her that would be her first starring role in over 20 years. "Jackie Brown" was an adaptation of Elmore Leonard¿s novel Rum Punch that was tailored directly to Grier, including a change in the lead character¿s race from white to black. The quirky crime drama also referenced Grier¿s AIP films in numerous oblique ways, from its funky one-sheet to the abundance of soul and R&B songs that dotted its soundtrack. Though shoulder to shoulder with an all-star cast that included Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton and Bridget Fonda, Grier was singled out for considerable praise, as was her co-star, Robert Forster, another `60s and `70s survivor favored by Tarantino. Grier received numerous honors for her performance, including a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, and found herself finally in demand from the powers in Hollywood. An Emmy nomination for her voiceover work in "The Empress¿ Nightingale," a 1999 episode of HBO¿s culturally diverse animated series (1995-2000), brought her additional acclaim.
For the next decade, Grier worked almost constantly in a wide variety of projects that ranged from weekly series to arthouse films. Many of these roles were tough authority figures, like her detectives in Jane Campion¿s "In Too Deep" (1999) or the black comedy "Jawbreaker" (1999), or a U.S. attorney in several episodes of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC, 1999- ). But she earned critical praise and one of six Image Awards in the 1990s and 2000s as a savvy call girl in "Linc¿s" (Showtime, 1988), a smart, underrated comedy from actor-producer Tim Reid about a Washington, D.C. diner. And for six years, she played Kate "Kit" Porter, mother hen to the diverse group of women that populated Showtime¿s "The L Word" (2004-09). A nightclub owner who struggled with her own sexuality as well as issues of alcoholism and motherhood, the role was perhaps one of Grier¿s best in her lengthy career. In 2010, she enjoyed a recurring role as Agent Amanda Waller, one of D.C. Comics¿ most accomplished super-villains, on "Smallville" (The WB/CW, 2001-2010).qualities. "The Arena" (1973) was a sword-and-sandal period piece with Grier as a fierce African warrior, while "Black Mama, White Mama" (1972), co-penned by Jonathan Demme, was an updated revamp of "The Defiant Ones" (1958), with Grier and Margaret Markov as black and white prison escapees who must work together to survive. Both were decent-sized hits on the drive-in circuit, but her next film served as both her breakthrough role and the epitome of her early screen persona.
"Coffy" (1973) was an urban crime drama inspired by the success of such films as "Shaft" (1971) and "Superfly" (1972). The difference came with the casting of Grier in the lead. Prior to "Coffy," no black action film was driven by a female star. Director Jack Hill, who had previously worked with Grier on "The Big Doll House," was an eclectic figure in the low-budget market whose previous work included such indefinable films as "Spider Baby" (1964). He proved to be the ideal filmmaker for the project by working loosely within the genre¿s requirements while devoting more time to character and story development than most exploitation directors. The result was an ultra-gritty revenge film with Grier as a hard-working nurse who systematically tracks down and destroys the mobsters who led her juvenile niece into drug addiction. Grier¿s title character enjoyed a great degree of complexity than the average B-movie role; she was sympathetic, sexy, ruthless and altogether driven in her goal to right some essential wrongs. Audiences flocked to see the film, which made her a rarity among actresses in the 1970s ¿ a performer whose presence guaranteed box office results.
For the next few years, Grier played variations on "Coffy" in film after film for AIP. Few could match the vitality of the energy, with most requiring her to look good in revealing outfits or handling a gun (or both). "Foxy Brown" (1974), a semi-sequel to "Coffy," was the best of the lot, but one would be hard pressed to distinguish "Sheba, Baby" (1975), "Friday Foster" (1975) and "Bucktown" (1975) from each other. Though the films were generating attention from mainstream audiences ¿ Grier found herself on the covers of both Ms. and Playboy at one point ¿ she was tiring of the repetitive nature of the roles, as well as AIP¿s requirements of nudity and violence. By 1977, she had abandoned the exploitation gristmill to try her hand at mainstream features.
She found what she was looking for in "Greased Lightning" (1977), a solid drama about the life and career of NASCAR pioneer Wendell Scott, the first black stock car racing champion. Though the film was only a minor success, she received solid notices as the romantic interest for the film¿s lead, Richard Pryor, with whom she had a brief but torrid affair. A small role in "Roots: The Next Generations" (ABC, 1979) seemed to indicate that she was on the path to a mainstream career, but the momentum quickly sputtered out. Grier had turned down numerous roles in order to focus on less exploitative films, but the projects simply never arrived. Undaunted, she bided her time by focusing on developing her other talents, including singing.
The death of a longtime friend, soul singer Minnie Ripperton, sent Grier into a depression that drove her to return to acting as a means of coping with her grief. She told her agents to find her more demanding roles. They found it in "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (1981), a harrowing police drama about a New York City police station struggling to contend with a wave of violence and racial unrest. Grier played a homicidal, drug-addicted prostitute who murders a pair of rookie policemen in the film¿s opening moments. Grier sunk deeply into the role, losing considerable weight and stripping away her natural glamour to play the debased role. It won her high praise from critics, and seemed to indicate a return to form.
Grier gave outstanding performances in her next films, including the mysterious Dust Witch in Jack Clayton¿s ad
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CAST: (feature film)
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"She doesn't like the Hollywood rat race. And she hasn't gone out of her way to look for jobs. When we had the premiere of 'Original Gangstas', she didn't come. She's not interested in promoting herself." --director Larry Cohen quoted in Entertainment Weekly, December 19, 1997.
"I grew up around a lot of black guys, and you can't be black and my age and not know who Pam Grier was and think of her as the Queen of Women. I'm talking about Pam's iconic stature and her presence and all that, but at the end of the day you can throw all that s--- away. Because she's a really good actress. ... " --Quentin Tarantino in Us, January 1998.
"I was brought up to be self-sufficient and to accept that as a member of the human race, there are certain things you have to go through. I always thought that not living here in Hollywood was a way of showing that I'm not afraid of losing my careerl I'm afraid of losing me." --Pam Grier to Michael Keaton in Interview, January 1998.
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