Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Heroes Of Blaxploitation: Pam Grier

Back in May of 2009, I paid tribute to some of my heroes from black action films... My Personal Heroes Of Black Action ... That blog covered some of my favorite actors from the Blaxploitation genre: Austin Stoker, Fred Williamson, Richard Rountree, Ken Foree, Jim Brown, Steve James, Carl Weathers, Rudy Ray Moore, Bernie Casey and Yaphet Kotto.

I wanted to continue that tribute to this highly entertaining but sadly long gone genre with a daily nod to more of my favorite actors, actresses and directors who've worked on those films. They gave audiences someone to root for, or in some cases, a reason to love to hate.

Day One:

What better way to start than with your favorite?

Pam Grier (b.1946) started working in genre film with the Women-In-Prison picture The Big Doll House (1971) which was shot back to back in the Philippines with Women In Cages (1971). Because Grier was the standout in those films, Director Jack Hill gave her the lead role in the best of the "WIP" movie bunch, The Big Bird Cage (1972). The film was a success and led to more work with the Blaxploitation films Cool Breeeze (1972), Hit Man (1972), Black Mama White Mama, and my favorite role of hers in that era, Coffy (1973). 

By 1973 she was soon becoming a star and standout in all sorts of films: The Twilight People (1973), Scream Blacula Scream (1973), and The Arena (1974). In the mid 70's, Grier was in a number of Blaxploitation pictures as the bonafide star...  Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba Baby (1975), Bucktown (1975) and Friday Foster (1975). She was a box office draw, and it didn't hurt that she was also a smoking hot babe.

The genre tapered off in the last part of the 70's and she made one final appearance in Blaxploitation film of the era with the sequel to Mandingo, Drum (1976). It was time to move on for Grier and she sought mainstream roles in films like the Richard Pryor vehicle Greased Lightning. Her personal life heated up while her career cooled off a bit but she made a mini comeback with the gritty Paul Newman actioner Fort Apache The Bronx (1981).

While her memorable stint in a high profile film didn't immediately lead to much work for Grier, she persisted and ended up steadily working in film and TV until her full blown comeback with Quentin Tarantino's loving nod to the films of the era with Jackie Brown (1997). Audiences fell in love with her all over again and she garnered a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nomination and the respect she so deserves.

Her name was Coffy... And she'll cream you!

Recommended reading: Pam Grier's memoir, Foxy: My Life In Three Acts ... It's an eye opening look at her life. She was involved with and almost married Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who wanted her to convert to Islam and be a totally subservient wife!


Jack Veasey said...

Pam Grier is a goddess!

Ty said...

Pam Grier is amazing and beautiful and she has made some of the best Blaxploitation films!

Scott (gotankgo) said...

Ms Pam Grier is outta sight!!!

Turnidoff Productions said...

Pam is untouchable. Sheba Baby & Friday Foster are my favorites. Her and Yaphet Kotto were a perfect team up.

Cinema Du Meep said...

I love the love for Pam!

Darius Whiteplume said...

On the commentary for Foxy Brown Jack Hill talks about how much of the characters Coffy and Foxy Brown came from Grier, like the razorblades in the hair. He also said how she was one of the first attractive and athletic women in action films. She could pull off fight scenes that other actresses could not. I believe he said the reason why there was the big lesbian bar fight in Foxy Brown was because the only women who could compete with her were stunt women, and a little more jock-looking than glamorous. Instead of dolling them up it was easier/more interesting to make it a lesbian bar :-)

I love Grier in Jawbreaker. She is all attitude in that one.

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