Five Easy Pieces and Nashville actress Karen Black dies aged 74

Karen Black, the Oscar-nominated actress who appeared in several films during the New Hollywood period, has died at the age of 74.

Her death was confirmed last night on Facebook by her fourth husband Stephen Eckelberry after she succumbed to cancer three years after being diagnosed.

“It is with great sadness that I have to report that my wife and best friend, Karen Black has just passed away, only a few minutes ago. Thank you all for all your prayers and love, they meant so much to her as they did to me.”

Born in Chicago in 1939, Black became one of the prolific stars of Hollywood during the 1960s/70s though her later career ended with a string of unknown films and television shows.

Having started her screenography in television, her cinematic breakthrough came in 1969 when she played a prostitute in Dennis Hopper’s cult classic Easy Rider before following that up with her role as Jack Nicholson’s drippy girlfriend Rayette Dipesto in the drama Five Easy Pieces (1970). Her performance in that film earned her a (tied) Golden Globe win in Best Supporting Actress and an Oscar nomination.

She then enjoyed greater success in the mid 1970s when she won another Golden Globe for her role as Myrtle Wilson in the 1974 adaption of The Great Gatsby and also scored a Grammy nomination for her performance in Robert Altman’s much-celebrated musical Nashville (1975). Other noticeable roles included Airport 1975, The Day of the Locust (1975) and a part in Alfred Hitchcock’s final film Family Plot (1976).

Unfortunately the high-profile roles dried up as she decided to work in low-budget horror films and television for the last thirty or so years of her life. She did end up finishing production on two recent projects, She Loves Me Not and In the Woods.

She is survived by Eckelberry and her two sons.

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