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Karen Blanche Ziegler

Female 1939 - 2013  (74 years)

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  • Name Karen Blanche Ziegler  [1
    Born 1 Jul 1939  Park Ridge, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Gender Female 
    Name Karen Black 
    Reference Number 8418 
    Died 8 Aug 2013  Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Person ID I8415  Zellner Genealogy
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2020 

    Father Norman Arthur Ziegler,   b. 20 Jan 1909, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Jan 1986, Tijuana Airport, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 76 years) 
    Relationship private 
    Mother Elsie Mary Reif,   b. 15 Nov 1910, Chicago, Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 May 2008, San Marcos, San Diego, California, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 97 years) 
    Relationship private 
    Married 1 Dec 1933  Cook, Illinois, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [3
    Reference Number 93132 
    Family ID F1454  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Charles Black 
    Married 1960 
    Divorced 1971 
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F14311  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Living 
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F14313  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 3 Lewis Minor Carson,   b. 12 Aug 1941, Irving, Dallas, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 20 Oct 2014, Dallas, Dallas, Texas, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 73 years) 
    Married 4 Jul 1975 
    Divorced 28 Jun 1983 
     1. Living
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F14314  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 4 Living 
     1. Living
    Last Modified 21 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F14315  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 1 Jul 1939 - Park Ridge, Cook, Illinois, USA Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 8 Aug 2013 - Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Notes 
    • 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. (bio by William Bjornstad, from findagrave.com)
      Obituary from The Guardian
      The New Hollywood movement was primarily a male, auteur-led phenomenon. But the contribution of performers as adventurous and vital as Karen Black, who has died aged 74 from complications from cancer, should not be overlooked. Black was electrified as well as electrifying: her tornado of hair, her fearless physicality and those indelible feline eyes combined to create a woozy and unapologetic sexual energy. She looked offbeat, and she knew how to use that. "I couldn't have been an actress in the 1930s," she said, reflecting on her role as a movie extra in The Day of the Locust (1975). "My face moves around too much."

      It was in the late 1960s and 70s that she became one of the great character actors of US cinema in a series of performances in key New Hollywood works. Partly it was that she exhibited qualities outside the skill set of a conventional female lead - she could play volatile and nerve-jangled, or maligned and wounded, without ever approaching caricature, and suddenly these talents came to be much in demand from countercultural film-makers. "Could actors such as Ellen Burstyn, Karen Black, Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall, with their neediness, blankness, oddity, have become leading players in any other decade?" asked Adam Mars-Jones recently in the Guardian. But if her skew-whiff style and appearance were well-suited to a cinema not guilty of undervaluing the marginal, then the humanity she brought to those characters would surely have been recognised in any era or art form.

      Her career overlapped with several key figures of New Hollywood: she made her screen debut in Francis Ford Coppola's own first film, You're a Big Boy Now (1966), and collaborated more than once with Jack Nicholson, who cast Black in his 1971 directorial debut, Drive, He Said, after co-starring with her in Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970). She was also a favourite of Robert Altman, who directed her in Nashville (1975), for which she and many of the cast wrote and performed their own songs, and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982). Playing herself in Altman's The Player (1992), she was one of many such celebrity guest stars in that overpopulated satire to be left on the cutting-room floor.)

      These parts were strikingly different from one another, but they had in common Black's knack for conveying her characters' rich and troubled inner lives, their cramped or thwarted dreams. The consummate example could be found in her Oscar-nominated performance as Rayette, the Tammy Wynette-loving girlfriend to Nicholson's discontented antihero Bobby Dupea, in Five Easy Pieces. There was a comical but achingly sad intellectual gap between the two. Bobby resented her. Crucially, the audience never did. "I dig [Rayette], she's not dumb, she's just not into thinking," said Black in 1970. "I didn't have to know anybody like her to play her. I mean, I'm like her, in ways. Rayette enjoys things as she sees them, she doesn't have to add significances. She can just love the dog, love the cat. See? There are many things she does not know, but that's cool; she doesn't intrude on anybody else's trip. And she's going to survive."

      She was born Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinois, daughter of Norman and Elsie Ziegler, the latter a children's novelist. She studied at Northwestern University in Illinois from the age of 15, then moved to New York at 17 and took odd jobs and off-Broadway roles. In 1960 she married Charles Black. She was nominated for best actress in the Drama Critics' Circle awards for playing the lead in The Play Room (1965); Coppola, who was in the audience, cast her in You're a Big Boy Now. From there, she met Henry Jaglom and Dennis Hopper, both of whom were, like Coppola, part of the coterie of up-and-coming film-makers and actors benefiting from the patronage of Roger Corman. Hopper cast her in Easy Rider as a prostitute who has a bad acid trip in a New Orleans cemetery; Jaglom, who was brought in to help edit the film, insisted that improvised scenes of Black which had been cut should be put back in. Jaglom would continue to help her career as late as 1983 when he gave her the lead in his underrated romantic comedy Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

      She attracted attention for those groundbreaking films with Hopper and Nicholson, and for numerous other fascinating oddities including Cisco Pike (1972), with Kris Kristofferson as a musician turned dealer; a 1972 adaptation of Philip Roth's comic novel Portnoy's Complaint; and a foolhardy film version of Ionesco's absurdist Rhinoceros (1974), with Zero Mostel. But she was not averse to the mainstream. She played the doomed Myrtle in the Coppola-scripted adaptation of The Great Gatsby (1974); she was the flight attendant who must land a plane single-handed in the efficient but much-parodied disaster movie Airport 1975 (1974); and she played a kidnapper in Alfred Hitchcock's final film, Family Plot (1976). She also became a darling of the horror genre after taking on three roles in the television anthology Trilogy of Terror (1975) and starring in movies such as Burnt Offerings (1976), Invaders from Mars (1986) and House of 1,000 Corpses (2003).

      Pickings became steadily slimmer in the 1980s, though her dynamic turn as a post-operative male-to-female transsexual in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean was singled out by Pauline Kael of the New Yorker as Black's finest work. Kael highlighted her "spectacular tawdry world-weariness" and commended her for "keep[ing] the mawkishness from splashing all over the set. I think this isn't just the best performance she has given on screen - it's a different kind of acting from what she usually does. It's subdued, controlled, quiet - but not parched." Black worked continuously until becoming ill in 2009. She had a small role in George Sluizer's Dark Blood, best known now as the film River Phoenix was making when he died in 1993. Illness prevented her from attending the world premiere of a salvaged cut of the film last year in the Netherlands.

      Black is survived by her fourth husband, Stephen Eckelberry, whom she married in 1987; and by a son, Hunter, and two daughters, Celine and Diane. Hunter is her son by her third husband, LM Kit Carson, who wrote Paris, Texas, which was filmed with Hunter, then nine years old, playing the main character's son, also named Hunter.
      The Washington Post
      By Adam Bernstein August 9, 2013
      Karen Black, an actress whose role as the acid-tripping prostitute in the movie “Easy Rider” launched her career as one of the emblematic tramps, vamps, kooks and down-and-outers of 1970s cinema, notably in “Five Easy Pieces,” “Nashville” and “The Great Gatsby,” died Aug. 8 at a hospital in Los Angeles. She was 74.

      The cause was ampullary cancer, her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, told the Associated Press. Ms. Black was diagnosed with the rare disease in 2010 and this year raised tens of thousands of dollars for experimental treatment through a crowdsourcing Web site.

      Ms. Black, who appeared in nearly 200 film and television roles, projected an unconventional allure. She had close-set eyes that could appear crossed from certain camera angles and possessed an intense sexual charisma that gave her an alarmingly unpredictable screen persona. She nearly and almost single-handedly brought an X rating to one early film role.

      Jack Nicholson once called her “the most lucid actress I’ve ever worked with. You tell her where it’s at and she grabs it.”

      She brought surprising depth of empathy and vulnerability to a range of not-very-bright characters. In the early 1970s, Ms. Black was one of the busiest leading actresses in Hollywood, propelled by what Time magazine once described as her “freewheeling combination of raunch and winsomeness.

      “Sometimes she is kittenish. At other times she has an overripe quality that makes her look like the kind of woman who gets her name tattooed on sailors.”

      Her background was Chicago bourgeois, but she rebelled by quitting high school to marry for the first of four times. After years of stage work, Ms. Black appeared in “Easy Rider” (1969), the low-budget but ambitious biker movie directed and co-written by Dennis Hopper that exploded commercially.

      In the film, Ms. Black and the biker antiheroes (Hopper and Peter Fonda) drop LSD in a New Orleans cemetery to hallucinogenic imagery and pulsating rock music.

      The film was meant to evoke the 1960s counterculture and was a riposte to bloated musicals and arch dramas and comedies that failed to connect with American youth at a time of deep social unrest. Of the film’s appeal, Ms. Black once told an interviewer that younger audiences simply “wanted to see people throwing up, smoking grass.”

      Nicholson, whose career zoomed after his brief turn as a societal dropout in “Easy Rider,” urged director Bob Rafelson to cast Ms. Black opposite him in “Five Easy Pieces” (1970). As Rayette Dipesto, an open-hearted, if dim, short-order waitress impregnated by Nicholson’s self-hating wanderer, she earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

      Over the next few years, Ms. Black was less than discriminating in the roles she accepted and played a variety of idiosyncratic love interests.

      They included the randy faculty wife in “Drive, He Said” (1971), which marked Nicholson’s directing debut, and the promiscuous “Monkey” in “Portnoy’s Complaint” (1972), starring Richard Benjamin in a poorly received adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel.

      She was the crass and adulterous Myrtle Wilson in the 1974 screen version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. The film was lavishly budgeted and picturesque but almost universally lambasted as a cinematic deadweight.

      The next year, she was the sexually teasing starlet Faye Greener in “The Day of the Locust,” based on Nathanael West’s apocalyptic story of 1930s Hollywood. It also bombed.

      Ms. Black was mindful of her typecasting as women of easy virtue, and she tried to break away in mainstream disaster fare as the flight attendant who tries to land a plane in “Airport 1975” and in small-budget art films such as the 1974 adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist farce “Rhinoceros.”

      She received some of the best reviews in “Nashville” (1975), director Robert Altman’s ambitious, Oscar-nominated drama that followed more than 20 major characters and was steeped in the paranoia of the Watergate and Vietnam era. The film, set in the country-music capital, featured Ms. Black as a hard-edged singer. She wrote and recorded several songs for the movie, including “Memphis.”

      She starred as a kidnapper in Alfred Hitchcock’s last feature, “Family Plot” (1976), and said she and the director established a playful rapport.

      “He found out that I had a good vocabulary, so he would try to catch me not knowing the meaning of a word,” she told the New York Observer. “He would say, for example, ‘Your work today, Ms. Black, has been most perspicacious,’ hoping to catch me up. And I would say, ‘Oh, Mr. Hitchcock, you mean keenly perceptive.’ And he’d get all deflated because he’d lost his own game.”

      She won a devoted following for her tour-de-force performances in the 1975 horror-anthology TV movie “Trilogy of Terror,” based on stories by Richard Matheson. However, her career soon went into decline, and to some degree she blamed prejudice against her membership in the Church of Scientology.

      Since the 1980s, she had been featured in dozens of small-budget films, including “Savage Dawn” (1985), “Dinosaur Valley Girls” (1996) and “House of 1,000 Corpses” (2003), directed by Rob Zombie. She inspired a New York punk band to name itself the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black.

      Karen Blanche Ziegler was born in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge on July 1, 1939. Her father was a businessman and her mother wrote novels.

      As Karen Black, the surname of her first husband, she acted in Chicago theater troupes before moving to New York. In 1962, it was announced she would play the ingenue in the Broadway production of the musical comedy “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” which became a major commercial and critical success, but she was replaced before the opening.

      Ms. Black plowed on in a series of short-lived stage productions, winning critical laurels as a teenager behind a kidnapping plot in Mary Drayton’s drama “The Playroom” (1965).

      The performance led to a supporting role in director Francis Ford Coppola’s frisky coming-of-age comedy “You’re a Big Boy Now” (1966) and eventually to “Easy Rider.”

      Her marriages to Charles Black, actor Robert Burton and writer L.M. “Kit” Carson ended in divorce.

      In 1987, she married Eckelberry, a film editor and producer. Besides her husband, survivors include a son from her third marriage; a daughter from her fourth marriage; a daughter from another relationship; a sister, actress Gail Brown; a brother; and several grandchildren.

      Ms. Black was known for giving circuitous answers when interviewers asked about her career choices.

      “Some people are comfortable with creating, some are comfortable with changing, some with stopping,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1997. “For instance, policemen stop things. They’re into stopping. I’m not into stopping, and I’m not much into changing. Mainly I like to start things. I like creating. I think you’ll find that actors like to become things, to imagine things, to get a laugh.”

  • Sources 
    1. [S209] World Family Tree, Brøderbund Software, Inc., Volume 89, Tree 434.

    2. [S289] Find a Grave, Memorial #115134109.

    3. [S53] Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960.