Karen Blanche Black (née Ziegler; July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013) was an American actress, screenwriter, singer and songwriter. A native of Illinois, Black studied acting in New York City and performed on Broadway before making her major film debut in Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now (1966).
She followed this with roles in Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The Great Gatsby (1974), for the latter two of which she won Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actress; her performance in Five Easy Pieces also garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 1975, she appeared in Dan Curtis's cult horror films Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings; Robert Altman's Nashville, and The Day of the Locust, which earned her a third Golden Globe nomination. Other roles include Airport 1975 (1974), Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976), Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), and Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars (1986).
In the 1990s, Black starred in a variety of arthouse and horror films, as well as writing her own screenplays before appearing in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses (2003), which cemented her status as a cult horror icon. Black continued to star in low-profile films throughout the early 2000s, as well as working as a playwright before being diagnosed with ampullary cancer in 2010. She died of the disease in Los Angeles, in August 2013. Black's career spanned over fifty years, and includes nearly two hundred film credits.
She is also known as Karen Blanche Ziegler.
After her final films were released in 2010, she was diagnosed with cancer and stopped making public appearances. She had a portion of her pancreas removed that year and endured two further operations. She was invited to attend the premiere of River Phoenix's last on-screen performance in the salvaged feature film Dark Blood, in which she had played a small part in the original early 1990s shoot. Black was unable to attend the event, held in the Netherlands in September 2012, due to her illness. On August 8, 2013, Black died in Los Angeles from ampullary cancer at age 74. Actress Juliette Lewis paid tribute, saying "Karen Black was my mentor and a second mother to me. She inspired everyone she came in contact with."