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Friday, October 18, 2013

Five Easy Reasons to Love Karen Black

by Jessica Goldschmidt

Some go for Shelley Duvall. Some say Mia Farrow. But goddamit if Karen Black isn’t our favorite creepy-pretty gal ever to grace a 1970s-era movie screen.

A serious actor tragically relegated to B-movie horror flicks, our girl K.B. made her name as a self-described “freak” in the counterculture classic Easy Rider, bringing a surprising vulnerability to her role as an acid-dropping prostitute. After that she became a sort of 70s It-Girl, winning an Oscar nomination for her heartbreakingly dim Rayette in Five Easy Pieces, and working with Hitchcock, Altman, and other greats.

Our Lady of the Voluptuous Hair died this past August. So we salute her here with, in no particular order, Five Easy Reasons We Love Karen Black.

1. Not only did she kill it as the ruthless Connie White, Barbara Jean’s nemesis in Altman’s Nashville, but she actually wrote and recorded every song she sang.

2. Though she may have gained a dumb blonde reputation after her success as Rayette—despite the fact that her hair changed color pretty much every movie and Bob Rafelson worried constantly that she was too smart for the role—Black battled wits with Hitch on the set of Family Plot, defining every pompous vocab word he rattled off at her and giving him a gold-embossed dictionary at the movie’s wrap.

3. Her feelings about Daylight Savings Time.

4. This excerpt from this interview with Roger Ebert in 1975:
“Her lunch arrives, accompanied by a frenzy of supervision by the maitre d' and the captain, who all but block the waiter and the busboy from reaching distance of the table.
"What was it Confucius said, his advice for lovers?"
She mused, hardly seeming to notice the melee. "Wash your face in the morning and your neck at night, and when you're in love you're never tired. I think that was it."
Are you in love, then? I asked.

"Oh, Christ, yes," she says. "Why isn't my ham as...pretty as it should be? Oh, you've still got to put on the pineapples."
5. The bar stool spin-around at 4:10ish. As a James Dean-obsessed transgendered Texan, no less.

In sum, we believe in all things Black. You should too.

Don’t miss the BAMcinématek series Karen Black, October 18—24 at BAM Rose Cinemas.

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