Karen Black, one of America's classiest and most appealing actors, passed away on August 8, 2013. She died in Los Angeles, California, from ampullory cancer at age 74. Actress Juliette Lewis, daughter of superb character actor Geoffrey Lewis, paid tribute to Ms. Black, saying, "Karen Black was my mentor and a second mother to me. She inspired everyone she came in contact with."
Black, who took the surname of her first husband, Charles Black, began her film career in 1959 with a small part in ''The Prime Time". Throughout the 1960s, Ms. Black worked mostly television, appearing on such popular shows as The F.B.I., Adam 12, Run for Your Life, The Big Valley and Mannix, among others. Being musically oriented, she also wrote and performed the theme song and supporting songs for ''The Pyx''.
It was Black's role as the acid-tripping prostitute in "Easy Rider" that gave her film career a major boost. It was the first in a string of major hits which included "Day of the Locust", Robert Altman's "Nashville", "The Great Gatsby", "Five Easy Pieces", "Airport 1975" and "The Family Plot" (which would be Alfred Hitchcock's last film).
Having established herself as a serious actress, Black found herself more attracted to darker roles in horror films. Her intensity and depth won her a cult following until her death...and now beyond. Ms. Black was fearless, willing to try numerous types of roles and even performing some of her own stunt work.
Ms. Lewis was correct in her statement. Karen Black did inspire people--fellow actors and fans alike. The girl from Chicago will be remembered fondly by all of her fans. She was a real person who could convey that vulnerability through the camera's eye. It's a rare talent and a great gift.