Carol Speed, Vixen of the Blaxploitation Era, dies aged 76

Carol Speed, the female lead of the hit blaxploitation films “The Mack” and “Abby” who used her sex appeal for suspense in a thriller and horror in the movie other, passed away on January 14 in Muskogee, Okla. She is 76 years old. .

Her family announced her death in a statement published online. It does not specify the reason.

A reserved Californian, Miss Speed ​​made B-movie headlines in the 1970s playing a demon and a prostitute. For those roles, her beautiful fresh face provides a dramatic contrast, making her even more striking when portraying a bad desire or a melancholy situation.

The blaxploitation genre – a series of low-budget 1970s films starring Black actors and dealing with gritty urban themes – often featured female characters forced against their will into danger and suffering, but it also gave them powers unusual for women in mainstream Hollywood movies of the time. Like blaxploitation’s most famous actress, Pam Grier, Ms. Speed ​​fits that mold.

In the horror film “Abby” (1974), Miss Speed ​​plays the title character, a middle-class marriage counselor in Louisville, Ky., who loves her husband and sings in the choir of the church where he preaches. preaching – until she is possessed by an ancient Nigerian demon known as Eshu. It’s the kind of movie where the resident exorcist wears bell bottoms and a fancy mustache, and Satan’s playground sits under a disco ball.

Miss Speed’s smile made her wince, a seemingly sweet gesture she’d turned into a twisted instrument to express lust and violent pleasure. In one scene, she switches back and forth between embodying a distraught loving wife and a demon with super powers.

A few months after it was released on Christmas Day, The New York Times summon “Abby” was among the most financially successful B movies at the time. However, after a lawsuit from Warner Bros. accused it of plagiarizing the plot of “The Exorcist” (1973), which was withdrawn from theaters. In the years to come, watching “Abby” became a rare and sought-after opportunity by fans.

Miss Speed ​​appeared in a number of other blaxploitation films, most notably “The Mack” (1973), a classic of the genre in which she played the ghost protagonist’s girlfriend and prostitute. she (played by Max Julien, who plays. died this month). During the 1970s, Speed ​​also acted in other low-budget films and on television shows including “Julia” and “Sanford and Son.”

“It seems that everywhere I go, I get one offer or another,” she told Jet magazine of 1973.

Mrs. Speed ​​frequently appeared in the black newspapers of that era as a photogenic and likable celebrity. She is among the “Bachelorettes ’72” featured in Ebony, and she was in July 1976 spread of Jet, said she “Often depicted as a sex symbol.” ONE Photograph Her performance at a charity tennis tournament in 1975 appeared on Jet alongside pictures of Bill Cosby and Aretha Franklin at the same event. Her 1980 semi-autobiographical novel, “Inside Black Hollywood”, is “Scandal” and become “The talk of the town,” according to Jet.

Carol Ann Bennett Stewart was born on March 14, 1945, in Bakersfield, California, to Cora Valrie Stewart and Freddie Lee Stewart. At the City College of San Jose, she staged a popular play, “The Bronx Is Next,” Sonia Sanchez’s play about Black revolutionaries. She soon received a scholarship to study at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Her career began at a casino in Reno, Nev., where she worked as a backup singer for pop star Bobbie Gentry.

The real life of Ms. Speed ​​has shared blaxploitation-style drama. While she was filming “The Mack,” her boyfriend was shot and killed in Berkeley, California. trying to support her son, Mark Speed; and threw another man out of her house. He left, but he brought many of Miss Speed’s possessions with her – even her bed sheets.

She was then cast in the movie for which she would be best known. “Abby took me out of California on a new adventure,” she said in one interview published on a website dedicated to William Girdler, director of “Abby.”

Miss Speed ​​is survived by an older sister, Barbara Morrison, and a nephew.

During the filming of “Abby,” Ms. Speed ​​said, 99 tornadoes tore through Louisville. A mansion where the cast attended a lavish party has been demolished. When Miss Speed ​​appeared on set during her demonic wake-up, the generator began to malfunction.

Perhaps she performed her role too well. Her colleagues were perplexed, Ms. Speed ​​said, adding, “The crew almost started to believe that I was possessed by the strongly sex-crazed Eshu.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/movies/carol-speed-dead.html Carol Speed, Vixen of the Blaxploitation Era, dies aged 76

Fry Electronics Team

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