'Five Easy Pieces' star Karen Black dead from cancer at 74
Karen Black, the prolific actress who appeared in more than 100 movies and was featured in such counterculture favorites as Easy Rider, 'Five Easy Pieces and Nashville, has died in Los Angeles.
Black's husband, Stephen Eckelberry, says the actress died Thursday from complications from cancer. She was 74.
Known for her full lips and thick, wavy hair that seemed to change color from film to film, Black often portrayed women who were quirky, troubled or threatened. Her breakthrough was as a prostitute who takes LSD with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in 1969's Easy Rider, the hippie classic that helped get her the role of Rayette Dipesto, a waitress who dates - and is mistreated by - an upper-class dropout played by Jack Nicholson in 1970's Five Easy Pieces. Black's performance won her an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe Award.
The actress would claim that her career as an A-list actress was ruined by The Day of the Locust, a troubled 1975 production of the Nathanael West novel that brought her a Golden Globe nomination but left Black struggling to find quality roles. By the end of the '70s, she was appearing in television and in low-budget productions.
Black was born Karen Ziegler and grew up in Park Ridge, Ill. By the early 1960s, she had moved to New York; made her film debut, in The Prime Time; and had married Charles Black, whose last name she kept even though they were together only for a short time.
Black was married four times. She is survived by Eckelberry, a son and a daughter.