Karen Black


Actor
Karen Black

About

Also Known As
Karen Blanche Ziegler
Birth Place
Park Ridge, Illinois, USA
Born
July 01, 1939

Biography

A key female performer of the American film renaissance of the 1970s, Karen Black was known for her warm smile, sturdy-yet-fraught quality and imperfectly set eyes. In 1965, Black won a Drama Critics Award nomination in for her Broadway debut in the short-running "The Playroom," but subsequent work in films limited her stage appearances. After earning praise as the small-town waitress wh...

Family & Companions

Charles Black
Husband
Married in 1960; divorced.
Henry Jaglom
Companion
Director, screenwriter.
Robert Burton
Husband
Actor. Married on April 18, 1973; divorced in October 1974.
L Minor 'Kit' Carson
Husband
Screenwriter, actor. Married on July 4, 1975; divorced; one son.

Notes

There is a rock band named in honor of the actress, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.

Biography

A key female performer of the American film renaissance of the 1970s, Karen Black was known for her warm smile, sturdy-yet-fraught quality and imperfectly set eyes. In 1965, Black won a Drama Critics Award nomination in for her Broadway debut in the short-running "The Playroom," but subsequent work in films limited her stage appearances. After earning praise as the small-town waitress who falls for upper-class drifter Jack Nicholson in "Five Easy Pieces" (1970), Black lent her versatility and unconventional beauty to a number of both offbeat and mainstream films, including Nicholson's "Drive, He Said" (1971), Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1975), in which she sang and earned a Grammy nomination for her efforts, and Alfred Hitchcock's swan song, "Family Plot" (1976). She did well as the sluttish Myrtle in "The Great Gatsby" (1974), but that same year found herself the object of parody for her silly role as a flight attendant forced to try to fly an airplane in "Airport 1975" (1974). She was the party girl who dreams of stardom in "The Day of the Locust" (1975), and memorably portrayed various characters in the cult-classic TV movie "Trilogy of Terror" (ABC, 1975). Although her Hollywood career had petered out by the end of that decade, she remained a cult favorite, and her 2013 death was widely mourned by fans.

Whereas others might have thrown in the towel or become women in jeopardy in TV movies with regularity, Black instead turned to independent films. While some were of downright horrendous quality, others offered her a wider range of roles than Hollywood might have. Among the best was Robert Altman's screen adaptation of "Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" (1982), in which she portrayed a transsexual. At the other end of the spectrum was her embarrassing role as an overprotective mother in "The Invisible Kid" (1988). In the middle of the decade, she had a recurring role as Elliott Gould's ex-wife on the sitcom "E/R" (CBS, 1984-85), and, in 1989, joined the parade of actors making guest appearances on the popular cop series "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-1990). She also appeared in "Invaders from Mars" (1986) with Hunter Carson, her son by screenwriter/actor L.M. Kit Carson. Black seemed never to turn down a part and was often available for low-budget films by first-time directors. As a result, her output did not diminish with her salary "quote," and, during the mid-1990s, she had numerous films in the can awaiting release, ranging from the comedy "Plan 10 from Outer Space" (1995) to the sequel "Children of the Corn: The Gathering" (1996) to the indescribable "Dinosaur Valley Girls" (1996).

In the new millennium, Black was largely relegated to getting by on her status as a cult favorite, though she did appear in occasional notable productions, including the offbeat computer-obsessed movie "Teknolust" (2002), starring Tilda Swinton, and she gamely embraced her horror roots as Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie's gory creep-fest "House of 1000 Corpses" (2003). Featured in low-budget films and occasional TV shows during her final years, Black died of cancer in 2013. One of her final public appearances came earlier that year, when she sang a duet with alt-folk singer-songwriter Cass McCombs on his song "Brighter!" from the album Big Wheel and Others.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Dark Blood (2012)
Some Guy Who Kills People (2011)
Maria My Love (2011)
Letters from the Big Man (2011)
Little Laura and Big John (2010)
Nothing Special (2010)
Stuck (2009)
Stuck! (2009)
Repo Chick (2009)
Irene in Time (2009)
No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos (2008)
The Blue Tooth Virgin (2008)
Watercolors (2008)
Ghost Writer (2007)
Hollywood Dreams (2006)
Firecracker (2006)
America Brown (2005)
House of 1,000 Corpses (2003)
Teknolust (2002)
Soulkeeper (2001)
Gypsy 83 (2001)
Bambi Lebleau
Fallen Arches (2000)
Duke'S Mother
Red Dirt (2000)
Aunt Summer
The Independent (2000)
Herself
Mascara (1999)
Aunt Eloise
Malaika (1999)
Decoupage 2000: Return of the Goddess (1999)
Invisible Dad (1998)
Bury the Evidence (1998)
Downtown Darlings (1998)
My Neighbor's Daughter (1998)
I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998)
The Underground Comedy Movie (1998)
Conceiving Ada (1998)
Lady Byron; Mother Coer
Who Is Henry Jaglom? (1997)
Herself
Dinosaur Valley Girls (1997)
Ro-Kell
Modern Rhapsody (1997)
Dogtown (1997)
Men (1997)
Alex
Stir (1997)
Psychiatrist
Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)
Cries of Silence (1996)
Crimetime (1996)
Millicent
Plan 10 From Outer Space (1995)
Nehor
The Wacky Adventures of Dr. Boris and Nurse Shirley (1994)
Evelyn
Bound and Gagged: A Love Story (1993)
The Roller Blade Seven (1993)
The Double O'Kid (1993)
The Trust (1993)
Maria Vandermeer
Auntie Lee's Meat Pies (1992)
The Player (1992)
Herself
The Killers Edge (1991)
Barrett
Children of the Night (1991)
Karen Thompson
Evil Spirits (1991)
Rubin & Ed (1991)
Rula
Hitz (1991)
Test Positive (1991)
Haunting Fear (1991)
Quiet Fire (1991)
Caged Fear (1991)
Blanche
Overexposed (1990)
Mrs Towbridge
Night Angel (1990)
Rita
Zapped Again (1990)
Mirror, Mirror (1990)
The Children (1990)
Twisted Justice (1990)
Mrs Granger
Club Fed (1990)
Homer and Eddie (1989)
Belle
Out of the Dark (1989)
The Invisible Kid (1988)
Mom
It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987)
Dixie Lanes (1987)
Zelma Laidlaw
Hostage (1987)
Cut and Run (1986)
Karin
Flight of the Spruce Goose (1986)
Invaders From Mars (1986)
Savage Dawn (1985)
Rachel Wade
The Blue Man (1985)
Janus
Bad Manners (1984)
Gladys Fitzpatrick
Martin's Day (1984)
Karen
Can She Bake A Cherry Pie? (1983)
Zee
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Chanel Solitaire (1981)
Emilienne D'Alencon
Separate Ways (1981)
Miss Right (1981)
Amy
The Grass Is Singing (1981)
The Squeeze (1980)
Clarisse
Where the Ladies Go (1980)
Helen
The Last Word (1979)
Paula Herbert
In Praise of Older Women (1979)
Maya
Killer Fish (1979)
Capricorn One (1978)
The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)
Family Plot (1976)
Fran
Burnt Offerings (1976)
Crime and Passion (1976)
Susan
Airport '75 (1975)
Nashville (1975)
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
The Day of the Locust (1975)
The Outfit (1974)
The Great Gatsby (1974)
Law and Disorder (1974)
The Pyx (1973)
Elizabeth Lucy
Portnoy's Complaint (1972)
The Monkey [Mary Jane Reid]
Cisco Pike (1972)
Sue
Rhinoceros (1972)
Daisy
Born to Win (1971)
Parm
A Gunfight (1971)
Jenny
Drive, He Said (1971)
Olive Calvin
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Rayette Dipesto
Easy Rider (1969)
Karen
Hard Contract (1969)
Ellen
You're a Big Boy Now (1966)
Amy
The Prime Time (1960)
Betty

Writer (Feature Film)

Felons (1999)
Screenplay
Malaika (1999)
Story By
Men (1997)
Screenwriter

Producer (Feature Film)

Felons (1999)
Producer

Music (Feature Film)

Can She Bake A Cherry Pie? (1983)
Song Performer ("The Food Song")
Can She Bake A Cherry Pie? (1983)
Song
Can She Bake A Cherry Pie? (1983)
Music
Nashville (1975)
Music
Nashville (1975)
Music Lyrics
The Pyx (1973)
Song Performer
The Pyx (1973)
Song

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Who Is Henry Jaglom? (1997)
Other
The Player (1992)
Other

Cast (Special)

Saturday Night Live: 25th Anniversary Primetime Special (1999)
Alfred Hitchcock: The E! True Hollywood Story (1999)
Interviewee
Canned Ham: Bowfinger (1999)
Interviewee
The Hunger: An MTV Sneak Preview (1997)
Interviewee
The 14th Annual Circus of the Stars (1989)
The Little Mermaid (1987)
Circus of the Stars (1977)
The Shameful Secrets of Hastings Corners (1970)
Jenny Honker; Corey'S Wife

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1994)
Herself
Ralph S. Mouse (1991)
Power (1980)

Misc. Crew (TV Mini-Series)

Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City (1994)
Other

Life Events

1959

First film appearance, "The Prime Time"

1965

Made Broadway debut in "Playroom"

1966

Acted in "You're a Big Boy Now," directed by Francis Ford Coppola

1967

TV debut as series regular, ABC's "The Second Hundred Years"

1970

Landed breakthrough screen role as Jack Nicholson's girlfriend in "Five Easy Pieces"

1974

Cast as Myrtle Wilson in "The Great Gatsby"

1974

Starred in drama thriller "Airport 1975"

1975

TV movie debut, "Trilogy of Terror" (ABC)

1975

Showcased singing talents in "Nashville"

1980

Made TV miniseries debut in "Power" (NBC)

1988

Played an overbearing and possessive mother in "The Invisible Kid"

1988

Cast as Martha Gelhorn opposite Victor Garber in "The Legendary Life of Ernest Hemingway"

1996

Made feature writing debut with "Movies Money Murder"

1998

Produced mystery drama "Charades"

2003

Appeared in Rob Zombie directed horror feature "House of 1000 Corpses"

2007

Cast in thriller "Suffering Man's Charity," directed by Alan Cumming

Videos

Movie Clip

Easy Rider (1969) - I Believe In God Famous sequence shot in 16mm and edited mostly by film-maker to be Henry Jaglom, Billy (director Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt (Peter Fonda) with hookers Karen (Karen Black) and Mary (Toni Basil) acid tripping at the St. Louis #1 Cemetery in New Orleans, in Easy Rider, 1969.
Five Easy Pieces (1970) - I Hope No One Hits On You Wayward classical pianist Robert (Jack Nicholson) is in trouble with his waitress girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) for hitting on loose local girls in the bowling alley, in Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces, 1970.
Five Easy Pieces (1970) - Open, Stand By Your Man Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" (lyrics by the artist, tune by Billy Sherrill), with scenes from oil fields around Bakersfield, CA, sets the tone for the opening credit sequence from director Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces, 1970, starring Jack Nicholson.
Five Easy Pieces (1970) - Side Order Of Wheat Toast With waitress girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) and lesbian hitchers Palm and Terry (Helena Kallianiotes, Toni Basil), Robert (Jack Nicholson) pulls over for the famous restaurant scene with waitress Lorna Thayer, in Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces, 1970.
Family Plot (1976) - I Told You About Danger Adamson (William Devane) and Fran (Karen Black) have just returned their hostage and secured their gigantic diamond ransom, and we learn, as they return home, that they appear to be a redoubtable well-to-do San Francisco couple, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.
Family Plot (1976) - The Trader Veering away from his original story, possibly the most famous image from the picture, silent Karen Black in the shades and blonde wig executes the collection of ransom, details provided by cops, Alan Fudge the chopper pilot, early in Alfred Hitchcock’s Family Plot, 1976.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) - Are You The Mother? Before the reunion, a stranger (Karen Black) appears at the Woolworth’s, prompting queries and exposition about the James Dean fan club and its origins, from Juanita and Mona (Sudie Bond, Sandy Dennis), in Robert Altman’s Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1982.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) - Disciples Of James Dean Director Robert Altman’s opening, from Ed Graczyk’s play and screenplay, Sudie Bond as Juanita, running the same Woolworth’s where the James Dean fan club first met 20 years earlier, introducing Cher as sassy waitress Sissy, in Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1982.
Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982) - Honey They're All Dead Encompassing director Robert Altman’s second flashback induced by thunder, Sissy (Cher) and Juanita (Sudie Bond) preparing for the reunion with Stella May (Kathy Bates) who, 20 years earlier, brings the news to Mona (Sandy Dennis) in Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, 1982.
Burnt Offerings (1976) - Damn It I Won't! Marian (Karen Black) assures Aunt Elizabeth (Bette Davis) that it's okay for her to take a nap, but leads to a surprise, in director Dan Curtis' Burnt Offerings, 1976.
Burnt Offerings (1976) - Open, Underprivileged Child The opening, Oliver Reed as the English guy helming the station wagon, with spouse Karen Black and son Lee Montgomery, from Burnt Offerings, 1976, also starring Bette Davis.
For Love Or Money (1963) - That Old Witch Opening with shirtless Kirk Douglas (and less exposed Gig Young) on San Francisco Bay, Thelma Ritter as wealthy widow Chloe, with aide William Bendix, dropping in via chopper, in For Love Or Money, 1963, also starring Mitzi Gaynor.

Trailer

Family

Arthur Ziegler
Grandfather
Violinist.
Norman Zeigler
Father
Engineering sales director.
Elsie Reif
Mother
Author. Wrote many prize-winning children's books.
Gail Brown
Sister
Actor. Older; appeared on "Another World" in the late 1970s, early 1980s.
Hunter Carson
Son
Actor. Born on December 26, 1975; father L M Kit Carson.
Celine Eckelberry
Daughter
Born in 1988.

Companions

Charles Black
Husband
Married in 1960; divorced.
Henry Jaglom
Companion
Director, screenwriter.
Robert Burton
Husband
Actor. Married on April 18, 1973; divorced in October 1974.
L Minor 'Kit' Carson
Husband
Screenwriter, actor. Married on July 4, 1975; divorced; one son.
Steven Eckelberry
Husband
Editor. Married on September 27, 1987.

Bibliography

Notes

There is a rock band named in honor of the actress, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.