Throwback: Pam Grier

Pam Grier’s film career started in 1970 when she appeared as a partygoer in the movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. She became a supporting actress after working on Jack Hill’s women in prison flicks The Big Doll House and Women in Cages. Cool Breeze would be her first official blaxploitation film, but it was the vigilante action movie Coffy that became her breakout hit. Grier was a new type of cinematic heroine because she was African-American, passionate and exuded a sexuality that was confident but not cheap. The role was written for a white actress but none were able to handle a gun or the required physicality. Grier attributes her preparedness to her feminist grandfather who encouraged the girls in her family to be independent. Foxy Brown, Sheba Baby and Friday Foster cemented her place as the first woman to be an action star in the movies. Each role showcased Grier as a sexy but tough character who typically sought justice for the people in her life who were wronged by criminal and corrupt organizations. At the end of the ’70’s she had a role in Greased Lighting where she met Richard Pryor and embarked on a highly publicized personal relationship with him. In the ’80’s Grier had memorable roles in Fort Apache, The Bronx and Something Wicked This Way It Comes. Television work on the hit show Miami Vice also kept her relevant. Grier returned to the spotlight in 1997 with the Quentin Tarantino-directed Jackie Brown. Tarantino adapted Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch for the story and he created the film with Grier in mind and used it to pay tribute to her earlier work in Foxy Brown and Coffy. The film was critically acclaimed and Grier received Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Saturn and Chicago Film Critics Awards nominations. Her next big sighting came on The L Word where she played Kate “Kit” Porter, the R&B singing sister of Jennifer Beal’s character for six seasons. In 2010 she published her memoir, Foxy: My Life In Three Acts. When Grier isn’t doing television and film work she cares for the horses, turkeys, chickens and dogs at her home in Colorado.

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