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Karen Black (born July 1, 1939) is an American actress, screenwriter, singer and songwriter. She is noted for appearing in such iconic films as as Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Great Gatsby, The Day of the Locust, Nashville and Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot.

Early life

Black was born as Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinoismarker, the daughter of Elsie (née Reif), a writer of several prize-winning children's novels, and Norman A. Ziegler. Her paternal grandfather was Arthur Ziegler, a classical musician and the first violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her sister is actress Gail Brown. She attended Northwestern Universitymarker in Evanston, Illinoismarker, for two years, having commenced university studies in 1954, aged 15. She then moved to New Yorkmarker where she appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions.


Black made her Broadwaymarker debut in 1965's The Playroom, for which she was nominated for a Drama Circle Critic Award for Best Actress. Her film debut was in The Prime Time (1960) and her first big role came in You're a Big Boy Now (1966), which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. She appeared on the TV series The Second Hundred Years (1967) as "Marcia Garroway".

Black became a well-known actress after her role as Karen in Easy Rider (1969). She has over 100 film performances to her credit, including her role as a kidnapping accomplice in the final film Alfred Hitchcock directed, Family Plot (1976), and her turn as Rayette Dipesto in Five Easy Pieces (1970), for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for Five Easy Pieces as well as a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her role as Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby (1974).

She was also nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress – Drama for her role as Faye Greener in The Day of the Locust. She starred in Airport 1975 as Chief Cabin Attendant Nancy Pryor with a memorable line: "There's no one left to fly the plane!". Black was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Series for Nashville (1975). She had previously written and sung the theme song and supporting songs for The Pyx (1973). She starred in the Dan Curtis horror film, Burnt Offerings (1976), which featured Bette Davis in one of her final roles. She went on to appear in a dual role in a 1977 thriller,The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver. She starred as Mother Firefly in the 2003 Rob Zombie horror movie House of 1000 Corpses.

In March 2005, Black received the Best Actress Award at the Fantasporto International Film Festival in Portomarker, Portugalmarker, for her work in the critically-acclaimed Steve Balderson film, Firecracker (2005), in which she plays two roles, Sandra and Eleanor. (Black also played two different roles in one of the three stories comprising the 1975 cult classic Trilogy of Terror). In April 2009, Black reunited with director Steve Balderson for Stuck! - an homage to film noir women in prison dramas, which co-starred Mink Stole, Pleasant Gehman and The Go-Go's Jane Wiedlin. Stuck! was filmed in Macon, Georgiamarker.

Black launched a career as a playwright in May 2007 with the opening of Missouri Waltz at the Blank Theater in Los Angelesmarker; Black stars in the play as well. Conceived as a play with music, rather than a musical, the play contains songs by Harriet Schock. The play is a bittersweet comedy about two ghosts who haunt their ancestral home in New Madrid, Missourimarker.

Black recently contributed vocals to "Dreams Come True Girl", the first single off of singer-songwriter Cass McCombs's fourth album, Catacombs.

Personal life

Black has been married four times. Her marriage to screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson produced her only biological child, Hunter Carson (born December 25, 1975). Black and her current husband (since 1987), Stephen Eckelberry adopted a daughter, Celine Eckelberry (born in November 1987).

Black in popular culture

Cracker's song Dr. Bernice contains the lyric, 'Though the wind may whisper an epic sometime/The cast must include Karen Black.'

In the Family Guy episode "Death Is a Bitch" Karen Black is forced to land a plane, prompting news anchor Tom Tucker to report, "Karen Black, what an obscure reference".

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is a glam/punk band led by Kembra Pfahler. Guitarist Abby Normal, featured a song titled "Scream Karen Black" on his solo project album Midnight Creature Feature Picture Show.

Her likeness appears in the The Simpsons Tree House of Horror Dead Man's Jest comic book.

In 2006 she appeared in a documentary Wanderlust with many other well known people.



  1. Karen Black's Film Reference biography
  2. Karen Black Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  3. IMDb bio of Karen Black
  4. The Pyx Soundtrack @

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