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Actress Karen Black Has Died At 74

The Five Easy Pieces and House of 1000 Corpses star was recently known for crowd-funding a European cancer treatment.

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Karen Black, star of 1970s films Five Easy Pieces, Nashville and Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot, has died after battling ampullary cancer for more than two years. Her husband confirmed the news Thursday on Facebook.


In March, Eckelberry started a crowd-funding campaign on to help pay for a two-month cancer treatment for Black in Europe. The goal was to raise $17,000; less than two weeks later, they had raised more than double that.

"Yes, she was an actress in movies, but most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago," Eckelberry initially wrote on the campaign page. "She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness), but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough. In the last two years we have used up all of our savings keeping Karen alive – traveling – treatments, getting people to help her. We have nothing left. And the European treatment is not covered by insurance."

Eckelberry continued to give updates on Black's condition, but they never went to Europe; Hungarian doctors felt that she wasn't strong enough to make the trip.

In his last post on Aug. 7, he wrote that after her health "continued to deteriorate at an alarming pace," she was put in a nursing facility.

I have given up predicting what is going to happen to Karen. In June family members flew in fearing the worse, but Karen is still here. You look at the scans, they tell you one thing, then you meet Karen, and what you are left with is how amazingly alive she is. Maybe it's her belief system, maybe it's because she was never one to tune out with drugs in her life, but mostly it's her innate character. She can't help but take life head-on and be completely engaged in the moment, always interested, always curious, always present.

Highlights from Black's career:

View this video on YouTube

She appealed to a new generation of fans with roles in movies like Rob Zombie's 2003 House of 1000 Corpses:

View this video on YouTube

Jessica Testa is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Jessica Testa at

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