It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Jack Nicholson, and I have often cited “Five Easy Pieces” as my personal favorite of his films. And the main love interest, of Jack’s Bobby Dupea character in that 1970 Bob Rafelson classic, is a girl named Rayette Dipesto as played by Karen Black. It’s a superb performance that won Ms. Black multiple awards as well as a nomination for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year. So, I was touched with a bit of melancholy when learning of the passing of Karen Black this week at the age of 74. She was a seminal part of the counter-culture film movement of the 1970’s, appearing in a triptych of essential maverick works in three consecutive years—all involving Jack Nicholson. In 1969 it was the groundbreaking “Easy Rider”, followed by “Five Easy Pieces” the next year, and then “Drive, He Said” in 1971—Nicholson’s debut as a film director(and covered on this blog in a Flashback feature last year). An exotic looking actress, with an unquestionable sex appeal, she starred in the 1974 box office smash “Airport 1975”, was among the amazing cast of Robert Altman’s 1975 masterpiece “Nashville”, and headlined the final film of Alfred Hitchcock’s career, 1976’s “Family Plot”. Ms. Black also played multiple roles in the 1975 television movie “Trilogy of Terror”, the final segment of which could just be the most frightening thing ever on T.V. By the mid-1980’s her career began a bit of a nosedive, so I doubt that most today remember how influential she was at one time. But they should—so consider this a reminder. And load up that Netflix queue with some of these classics. So long, Karen…you will be missed.
R.I.P. Rayette…a tribute to Karen Black