She crossed genres between high drama and low schlock. She acted for and with the likes of Robert Altman, Alfred Hitchcock and Peter Fonda. She worked on the stage and screens both big and small, scoring an Oscar nomination and charming audiences along the way. So it is with sadness that we report that Karen Black has died at the age of 74.
Born in Illinois in 1939, she decided to pursue an acting career on the New York stage during her college years. After studying with Lee Strasberg and working for a few years in off Broadway productions, she won her first film role with 1959’s The Prime Time. Yet despite the lure of a big screen career, she chose to focus on the stage, and spent the next six years in the theatre.
Still, cinema was to call in a big way with some memorable movies including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, A Gunfight, The Great Gatsby, Family Plot and Airport 1975. Five Easy Pieces also earned her an Oscar nomination. In addition to her work on film and television, she found success as screenwriter, singer and songwriter, including a Grammy nomination for performing in Robert Altman’s Nashville. Horror fans loved her in the ABV TV movie Trilogy Of Terror.
Though her career seemed to hit its peak as the 1970s ended and she rarely found the same level of success, she continued to work steadily on TV and in movies, appearing in a variety of films even after she was diagnosed with cancer. She raised money for treatment, but finally lost her battle on Thursday.
“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,” her husband, Stephen Eckelberry wrote on Facebook. “Thank you all for all your prayers and love, they meant so much to her as they did to me.”