Last Thursday, I was literally sitting down to write today’s blog when I read the news that Karen Black had died. Once the shock wore off, my initial thoughts were:
For me, Karen was one of the major stars of the 1970s. She may not have always played the lead in her films but, for me, she always stood out and raised the level of every film she was in. Her early roles in YOU’RE A BIG BOY NOW (1967) and EASY RIDER (1969) personified the feelings of the age and the young people looking to make some noise and shake things up. I feel like another part of my youth just died.
--Some day I finally need to watch FIVE EASY PIECES (1970).
Karen’s breakthrough role and the only one she received an Oscar nomination for. Very sad because she deserved at least three more noms, if not wins.
--She was the only good thing in AIRPORT 1975 (1974).
She played a stewardess who finds herself flying a 747 after the crew is killed in a mid-air collision. An outlandish situation in an over the top film (most of AIRPLANE’s satire was making fun of this movie) and yet Black made her character believable and relatable.
“Salt Lake…This is Columbia 409!...Something hit us! All the flight crew is dead or badly injured! There's no one left to fly the plane! Help us! Oh my God, help us!”
-- TRILOGY OF TERROR (1975)
When I was a teenager, this TV movie with its rampaging doll scared the hell out of all of us and was the source of many a nightmare. Karen played four roles in it, each one different and amazing. Still creepy today.
Amdst its all-star cast, I remember being blown away by the actress playing country singer Connie White, especially her amazing singing voice. It wasn’t until I saw the end credits that I realized it was Karen Black.
-- BURNT OFFERINGS (1976)
She personally scared the SH*T out of me in in this film. I STILL have nightmares about the ending. “I've been waiting for you, Ben!”
--FAMILY PLOT (1976)
She got to star in Alfred Hitchcock’s final movie. How lucky is that? Her co-star was the amazing Bruce Dern who will probably win a long overdue Oscar this year for NEBRASKA (2013).
--THE GREAT GATSBY (1974)
Sorry Isla Fisher and Shelley Winters. For me, Karen will always be the perfect Myrtle Wilson. However you feel about the Robert Redford version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, pretty much everyone agreed that Karen was the best thing in it. She deservedly won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress then was not even nominated for the Oscar. I still don’t understand it. She should have won, hands down.
--She was 74???????
For me, Karen was forever young, ever the embodiment of LIFE in all of its explosive, eternal glory. There was always so much life running through her and her characters it made me believe her life force would be impossible to extinguish. And now she is gone.
Of course, it hasn’t been extinguished. It has merely passed on from earth to the ephemeral where it will live forever. Forever in our hearts, and forever in the movies.
Her beautiful monologue from THE GREAT GATSBY (1974).
Worth an Oscar nomination for this scene alone. Like Nick (Sam Waterston), each time I see her, I am entranced all over again.