Friday, July 16, 2010

R.I.P. Vonetta McGee

American actress Vonetta McGee, best known for her work in several blaxploitation films of the 1970s, has passed away at the age of 65 after suffering cardiac arrest and being on life support for two days in hospital in Berkeley, Ca.

McGee is a familar face to film fans who love the blaxploitation subgenre popularized by films like Shaft (1971) and Blacula (1973) which McGee had the lead female role in. She also appeared alonside Fred "The Hammer" Williamson in Hammer (1972) with Richard Roundtree in Shaft In Africa (1973) and Max Julien in the western Thomasine and Bushrod (1974). She had a lead role in the thriller Melinda (1972) starring opposite Calvin Lockheart and Jim Kelly. But despite her notable work in "soul cinema", McGee strongly resented being typecast in blaxploitation films but she did have many other diverse credits in her filmography such as acting alonside Clint Eastwood in the 1975 action thriller The Eiger Sanction. One standout role was as a sympathetic widow to Jean Louis Trintignant's mute protangonist in the 1968 spaghetti western The Great Silence, directed by Sergio Corbucci (Django). In 1984, she appeared in the cult classic Repo Man with Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton.

She was also prolific on television, making appearances on Diff'rent Strokes, Starsky & Hutch, L.A. Law, Cagney & Lacey, and EZ Streets. She even had a regular role in the shortlived Robert Blake TV series Helltown.

I find the best way to pay tribute to a talented actor or actress is to show clips of their work for you to enjoy, maybe even for the first time. Take a look at Vonetta McGee in a montage of clips from the haunting film The Great Silence and an interview she did on Soul Train in 1973. By looking at the interview, she was not only a great beauty but she also seemed to be a natural charmer.

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