Celebrating Black Women Pam Grier Documentary

Pamela Suzette Grier (born May 26, 1949) is an American actress. Grier became known in the early 1970s for starring in a string of 1970s women in prison and blaxploitation films such as The Big Bird Cage, Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Sheba, Baby. She starred in Quentin Tarantino‘s 1997 crime film Jackie Brown, for which she received a Satellite Award and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She has also been nominated for a SAG Award.

For six seasons, Grier portrayed Kate “Kit” Porter on the Showtime television series The L Word, which ran from 2004. She received an Emmy nomination for her work in the animated program Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Tarantino said that she may have been cinema’s first female action star. 

Pam Grier

Early life

Grier was born on May 26, 1949, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the daughter of Gwendolyn Sylvia (née Samuels), a homemaker and nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier, Jr., who worked as a mechanic and technical sergeant in the United States Air Force. She has one sister and one brother.[4] Grier has stated that she is of mixed ancestry consisting of African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne Indian heritage.[5]

At age 6, Grier was raped by two boys when she was left unattended at her aunt’s house. “It took so long to deal with the pain of that,” she says, “You try to deal with it, but you never really get over it,” she adds. “And not just me; my family endured so much guilt and anger that something like that happened to me.”[5] Because of her father’s military career, the family moved frequently during her childhood to various places such as England before eventually settling in Denver, where she attended East High School. While in Denver, she appeared in a number of stage productions, and participated in beauty contests to raise money for college tuition at Metropolitan State College.

Career

Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired as a receptionist at American International Pictures (AIP).[citation needed] She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill,[citation needed] who cast her in his women-in-prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation movies, playing big, bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill’s Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers. Her character was advertised in the trailer as the “baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!” The film, which was filled with sexual and violent elements typical of the genre, was a box-office hit. Grier is considered to be the first African-American female to headline an action film, as protagonists of previous blaxploitation films were males. In his review of Coffy, critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead. He noted that Grier was an actress of “beautiful face and astonishing form” and that she possessed a kind of “physical life” missing from many other attractive actresses.[6] Grier subsequently played similar characters in the AIP films Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster, (both 1975).

With the demise of blaxploitation later in the 1970s, Grier appeared in smaller roles for many years. She acquired progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including a druggie prostitute in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983), and Steven Seagal‘s detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She had a recurring role on Miami Vice from 1985 to 1989 and made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She had a recurring role in the TV series Crime Story between 1986 and 1988. Her role in Rocket Gibraltar (1988) was cut due to fears by the film’s director, Daniel Petrie, of “repercussions from interracial love scenes”.[7] She appeared on Sinbad, Preston Chronicles, The Cosby Show, The Wayans Brothers Show, and Mad TV. In 1994, Grier appeared in Snoop Dogg‘s video for “Doggy Dogg World“.

Grier with moderator Jarrett Crippen during a Q&A session at the 2013 Wizard World New York Experience

In the late 1990s, Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series Linc’s. She appeared in 1996 in John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. and 1997 with the title role in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, films that partly paid homage to her 1970s blaxploitation movies. She was nominated for numerous awards for her work in the Tarantino film. Grier appeared on Showtime‘s The L Word, in which she played Kit Porter. The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009. Grier occasionally guest-stars in such television series as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (where she is a recurring character).

In 2010, Grier began appearing in a recurring role on the hit science-fiction series Smallville as the villain Amanda Waller, also known as White Queen, head agent of Checkmate, a covert operations agency. She appeared as a friend and colleague to Julia Roberts‘ college professor in 2011’s Larry Crowne.

In 2010, Grier wrote her memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, with Andrea Cagan.[8] In January 2018, Grier revealed a biopic based on her book is in the works titled, Pam.[9]


Pam Grier Documentary

Grier received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2011. That same year, she received an honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University.[10]

She started the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center with the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The purpose is to teach people about organic gardening, health and nutrition among other things.[11]

Personal life

Grier has had a few high profile relationships.

Grier met basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before he became a Muslim. Soon after they began dating, he converted to Islam. Abdul-Jabbar proposed to Grier, but gave her an ultimatum to convert to Islam. He said, “If you don’t commit to me today, I’m getting married at 2 this afternoon. She’s a converted Muslim, and she’s been prepared for me,” adding, “once you become Muslim, you might appreciate another wife.” Grier declined, and he got married that day.[12]

Grier met comedian Freddie Prinze while promoting her film Coffy in 1973. They fell in love and considered marriage.[12] Prinze wanted her to have his baby[13] but she did not want to bring a child into the world while he was unstable.[14] Prinze suffered from depression and drug addiction. They remained in touch after she broke up with him. She was one of the last people Prinze spoke to before he fatally shot himself in 1977.[9]

Grier met comedian Richard Pryor through her relationship with Prinze. They did not begin dating until they were both cast in Greased Lightning.[12] She helped Pryor learn to read[9] and wanted to help him with his drug addiction.[13] After six months sober, he relapsed.[12] In her memoir she revealed her sexual relationship with Pryor caused cocaine to enter her system. Her doctor informed her that she had a “buildup of cocaine residue” around her cervix and vagina which he called an “epidemic” in Beverly Hills. He asked if perhaps Pryor put cocaine on his penis to sustain his erection but she was unsure.[15] The doctor then asked her if her mouth went numb while performing oral sex on Pryor, she said it did and he linked it the Novocaine-like effects of cocaine. Grier confronted Pryor about protecting her health, but he refused to use a condom.[14] Pryor later got engaged to another woman while he was dating Grier in 1977.

Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer in 1988, and was told she had 18 months to live. Through vigorous treatment she made a recovery and has been in remission.[16]

Grier was formerly romantically linked to Soul Train host Don Cornelius[17] and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.[

In 1998, Grier was engaged to music executive Kevin Evans, but the engagement ended in 1999. From 2000 to 2008, she dated marketing executive Peter Hempel.[c

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1970Beyond the Valley of the DollsPartygoer
1971The Big Doll HouseGrear
Women in CagesAlabama
1972The Twilight PeopleAyesa
Cool BreezeMona
The Big Bird CageBlossom
Hit ManGozelda
1973Black Mama White MamaLee Daniels
CoffyCoffy
Scream Blacula ScreamLisa Fortier
1974The ArenaMamawi
Foxy BrownFoxy Brown
1975Sheba, BabySheba Shayne
BucktownAretha
Friday FosterFriday Foster
1976DrumRegine
1977Greased LightningMary Jones
Twilight of LoveSandra
1981Fort Apache, The BronxCharlotte
1983Something Wicked This Way ComesDust Witch
Tough EnoughMyra
1985Stand AloneCathryn Bolan
1986The VindicatorHunter
On the EdgeCora
1987The AllnighterSgt. McLeesh
1988Above the LawDelores ‘Jacks’ Jackson
1989The PackageRuth Butler
1990Class of 1999Ms. Connors
1991Bill & Ted’s Bogus JourneyMs. Wardroe
1993PossePhoebe
1996Original GangstasLaurie Thompson
Escape from L.A.Hershe Las Palmas
Mars Attacks!Louise Williams
1997Fakin’ da FunkAnnabelle Lee
Jackie BrownJackie BrownSan Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Empire Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
1999JawbreakerDetective Vera Cruz
In Too DeepDet. Angela Wilson
Holy Smoke!Carol
2000Snow DayTina
Fortress 2: Re-EntrySusan Mendenhall
WilderDetective Della Wilder
2001Ghosts of MarsCommander Helena Braddock
BonesPearlNominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture
2002The Adventures of Pluto NashFlura Nash
2005Back in the DayMrs. Cooper
2010The InvitedZelda
Just WrightJanice Wright
Machete Maidens Unleashed!Herself
2011Larry CrowneFrances
Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelHerself
2012Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th DayDetective Barrick
MafiaJames Womack
The Man with the Iron FistsJane
2017Bad GrandmasCoralee
Being RoseLily
2019PomsPost-production

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1979Roots: The Next GenerationsFranceyMiniseries
Episode: “Part IV (1917-1921)”
1980The Love BoatCynthia Wilbur2 episodes
1985Badge of the AssassinAlexandra HornTelevision film
1985-1990Miami ViceValerie Gordon3 episodes
1986Night CourtBenet Collins2 episodes
1986-1988Crime StorySuzanne TerryRecurring role
7 episodes
1987The Cosby ShowSamanthaEpisode: “Planning Parenthood”
1988Frank’s PlaceNeema SharoneEpisode: “Frank’s Place – The Movie”
1989Midnight CallerSusan ProvinceEpisode: “Blood Red”
1990Knots LandingLieutenant Guthrie2 episodes
1991MonstersMatildeEpisode: “Hostile Takeover”
1992Pacific StationGrace BallardEpisode: “My Favorite Dad”
A Mother’s Right: The Elizabeth Morgan StoryLinda HolmanTelevision film
1994In Living ColorHerselfEpisode: “Mrs. Ikefire”
The Sinbad ShowLynn Montgomery2 episodes
The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirJanice RobertsonEpisode: “M is for the Many Things She Gave Me”
1995The MarshalMarshal Vanetta BrownEpisode: “Rainbow Comix”
MartinHerselfEpisode: “All the Players Came”
1996SparksMs. GraysonEpisode: “Pillow Talk”
The Wayans Bros.EricaEpisodes: “Goin’ to the Net”
1998Mad TVHostEpisode #3.25
Pinky and the BrainJulie AuburnVoice role
Episode: “Inherit the Wheeze”
Family BlessingsMrs. QuincyTelevision film
1998-2000Linc’sEleanor WinthropSeries regular
35 episodes
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
1999The Wild ThornberrysMother SpringbokVoice role
Episode: “Stick Your Neck Out”
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every ChildThe Empress’ NightingaleVoice role
Episode: “The Empress’ Nightingale”
Nominated — Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program
Hayley Wagner, StarSamTelevision film
For Your LoveBrendaEpisode: “The Sins of the Mother and… the Boyfriend”
2001The Feast of All SaintsSuzzette LermontantTelevision film
3 A.M.GeorgeTelevision movie
Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Actress in Network/Cable Series
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
2002Night VisionsDr. LewisEpisode: “Switch”
Justice LeagueMy’ria’hVoice role
2 episodes
2002-2003Law & Order: Special Victims UnitAsst. US Attorney Claudia Williams2 episodes
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
2003First to DieClaire WashburnTelevision film
2004-2009The L WordKit PorterSeries regular
70 episodes
Nominated — NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
2008Ladies of the HouseRoberta “Birdie” MarchandTelevision film
2010SmallvilleAmanda Waller3 episodes
2015Cleveland AbductionNurse CarlaTelevision film
2018This Is UsGrandmaEpisode: “This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life”

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