Karen Black (Karen Blanche Ziegler)

Karen Black

Karen Black

Actress. She is best remembered for her appearances in the notable films “Easy Rider” (1969), “Five Easy Pieces” (1970), “The Great Gatsby” (1974). “Rhinoceros” (1974), “Airport 1975” (1974), “The Day of the Locust” (1975), “Nashville” (1975), and Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, “Family Plot’ (1976). Born Karen Blanche Ziegler, her mother wrote children’s novels and her paternal grandfather was a classical musician and 1st violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At the age of 15, she attended northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois for two years before moving to New York City, New York, where she studied acting under Lee Strasberg and appeared in a number of off-Broadway plays. She took the surname “Black’ from her first husband, Charles Black and began her film career in 1959 with a small role in “The Prime Time.” In 1965 she made her Broadway debut in “The Playroom.” In 1967 she appeared in guest roles in several television series, including “The F.B.I.,” “Run for Your Life,” “The Second Hundred Years,” “The Big Valley,” “Iron Horse,” “Judd for the Defense,” “Adam-12,” and “Mannix.” From 1984 to 1985, she was cast as Sheila Sheinfeld in three episodes of the NBC television series “E/R.” In 1969 her film career took off with her role of an acid-tripping prostitute opposite Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in the iconic counterculture movie “Easy Rider.” The following year, she appeared as Rayette, the waitress girlfriend of Jack Nicholson, in the film “Five Easy Pieces,” for which she was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. In the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby,” she played an unfaithful wife, Myrtle Wilson. Also in 1974, she starred as Nancy Pryor, the stewardess who is forced to fly the plane, in the disaster film “Airport 1975.” In the same year, she played multiple roles in Richard Matheson’s televised anthology film “Trilogy of Terror.” Over the next two years, she had leading roles as an aspiring Hollywood actress in John Schlesinger’s “The Day of the Locust,” as a country singer in Robert Altman’s “Nashville” and as a kidnapper in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Family Plot”. She also co-starred with Bette Davis in the horror film “Burnt Offerings” (1976). After 1976, her career tailed off into numerous horror roles and after a string of forgettable movies, she won rave reviews for her role in “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” (1982). In 2010 she was diagnosed with cancer and did not make any more public appearances. She died from ampullary cancer at the age of 74. During the course of her career, she appeared in over 70 films and television movies and won two Golden Globe Awards. She is the mother of actor, screenwriter, producer, and director Hunter Carson.

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  • July, 01, 1939
  • Park Ridge, Illinois


  • August, 08, 2013
  • Santa Monica, California

Cause of Death

  • ampullary cancer


  • Eternal Hills Memorial Park
  • Oceanside, California

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