Today I heard the very sad news that one of my favorite actresses from the seventies, Vonetta McGee, passed away at the age of 65 this past week. Mcgee proved a unique and unforgettable presence in every film she appeared in throughout a career that stretched from the late sixties up to the late nineties. Most often associated with the Blaxploitation genre, she was in memorable films such as Melinda, Blacula, Hammer, Detroit 9000 and Shaft in Africa, McGee also appeared in far ranging films from the Clint Eastwood vehicle The Eiger Sanction and Alex Cox's cult-classic Repo Man. She was also a staple on American television throughout the seventies and eighties and made guest stops on great shows like Police Woman, Starsky and Hutch and Cagney and Lacey.
I have paid tribute to the beautiful and talented Mcgee before with my posts on my two favorite films of hers, Sergio Corbucci's stunning The Great Silence(in which she is wonderfully effective and finally heartbreaking) and Gordon Parks Jr's little-seen genre-bending classic Thomasine and Bushrod, which was written specifically for McGee by her then boyfriend Max Julien. Thomasine and Bushrod had ironically been a partial reaction to the most famous role that McGee had been denied, the title-character in the Julien co-scripted Cleopatra Jones (another work that was written specifically with her in mind).
Mcgee was brilliant, beautiful and always compelling to watch. She will be greatly missed and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.