‘Five Easy Pieces,’ ‘Easy Rider’ actress Karen Black dies at 74

Karen Black, a versatile actress whose name became virtually synonymous with films that reflected and helped define America in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including “Five Easy Pieces,” died Thursday in Los Angeles. She was 74.

Family spokesman Elliot Mintz confirmed her death.

Diagnosed with ampullary cancer in 2010, Black had sought help from the public earlier this year to cover the cost of her medical treatment. An appeal by her husband, Stephen Eckelberry, on a crowd-sourcing website raised more than $60,000.

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Although she had a small part in Dennis Hopper’s groundbreaking 1969 counterculture movie, “Easy Rider,” Black was best known for her performance in “Five Easy Pieces,” the 1970 film in which she plays the clingy, ultimately abandoned girlfriend of Jack Nicholson’s character, a brooding dropout from an upper-class life who becomes an oilfield roughneck.

She also had roles in the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby,” “The Day of the Locust” in 1975 and two Robert Altman films, “Nashville” and “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.”

A full obituary will follow at


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