RIP: Karen Black, 1939-2013

After appearing in more than 100 films, the movie career of actress Karen Black came to an end last week. She died on Thursday (August 8) at the age of 74.

Yes, as all of the obituaries pointed out, she appeared in some of the most revered films of her era – from “Easy Rider” to “Nashville.” She was nominated for both an Academy Award and a Grammy Award. And she won two Golden Globe Awards as Best Supporting Actress for her work in “Five Easy Pieces” and “The Great Gatsby.”

But here’s all you really need to know about Karen Black: She was the only actor in cinema history to have been directed by both suspense maestro Alfred Hitchcock and shock-rocker-turned-horror-auteur Rob Zombie.

“Hitchcock was there for just every detail. He didn’t let much go. He was such a perfectionist,” Black told me 10 years ago during an interview to promote a MASS MoCA performance of “A View From the Heart,” her one-woman cabaret show. “With Hitchcock, the final film matched the storyboards to such a degree that you didn’t even have to edit the movie: The final movie is right there in those pictures, and it all works. How the hell did he do that? He knew how it was going to be for an audience to see those pictures in rapid succession.

“It just blows my mind,” said Black, who played a femme fatale in Hitchcock’s final film, “Family Plot” (1976). “Nobody else does that.”

“Rob, on the other hand, lets a lot more go,” Black said of her experience playing the matriarch of a crew of backwoods cannibals in Zombie’s “House of 1,000 Corpses” (2003). “But he really loves the horror. And color. He’d sit there watching the shoot, laughing and giggling, and he’d just say, ‘That was awesome!’ Let’s just say that he’s… just much looser.

“Hitchcock would sweat and torture himself over the script, and I think that Rob just kind of writes one, and sees what happens.”

Bruce Weber’s obituary for Karen Black at The New York Times

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