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A Trip Down Memory Lane w/ 1970s Actress Marlene Clark (‘Ganja & Hess’)

A Trip Down Memory Lane w/ 1970s Actress Marlene Clark ('Ganja & Hess')

"There’s a scene where I get raped by two dozen midgets… and when they jumped on me, half of them didn’t know they were supposed to be acting. They were all pulling their pants down. I said, ‘Oh no! Whoa! It’s time for me to leave, ‘cause these midgets are really trying to rape me!’ The director said ‘Marlene, wait…,’ and started yelling at them, ‘No, this is play! This is pretend!’ I was looking around, like ‘Where’s the plane? Get me on that plane!’”

I stumbled upon a year 2000 interview with 1970s actress Marlene Clark, on the Temple of Schlock blog (from where I lifted the above quote), while I was researching past essays written about a notable film that she starred in – "Ganja & Hess" – which, as we all know by now, has been remade/reimagined by director Spike Lee in his upcoming "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus" (By the way, in addition to working with the late Bill Gunn in "Ganja & Hess," 3 years earlier, she starred in another Bill Gunn-directed film titled "Stop," which Sergio revisited on this blog in April, under the title "Bill Gunn’s Controversial And Rarely Seen Film ‘Stop’ To Finally See The Light Of Day").

The Temple of Schlock piece is actually a very good interview/profile, regardless of what the above quote suggests to, or elicits from you. Informative, revealing, humorous and titillating, I encourage you to read it all – especially if you’re not at all familiar with her life and career. It’s part 70s exploitation film primer (not just blaxploitation), part reference piece, and part profile of the starlet, with several quotables.

It’s also a rare interview (a fairly comprehensive one too). As she says in the profile’s intro below, she didn’t give many interviews:

It’s hard to believe that actress Marlene Clark’s short but exciting career hasn’t received more attention from fringe movie fanatics. Her résumé boasts leading roles in the legendary GANJA AND HESS, the overlooked LORD SHANGO and such late-night TV staples as NIGHT OF THE COBRA WOMAN and THE BEAST MUST DIE, not to mention supporting parts in cultish favorites like PUTNEY SWOPE, ENTER THE DRAGON and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. The talented and stunningly beautiful actress, who has been absent from the screen for nearly 25 years, can think of at least one possible explanation. “I didn’t get a chance to do many interviews,” she says with a laugh, one of many that punctuate her comments. “Most of the movies I starred in didn’t come out when they were supposed to, or never came out at all — and if the movies aren’t going to be released, the studios aren’t going to do anything to promote them. So you miss out on all that publicity that can lead to other jobs.”

She’s still very much alive, at age 64.

Click here to read the rest of the piece.

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Thank you for sharing this fascinating article about a fascinating woman. Ms. Clark is a class act. Loved her in "GANJA & HESS" and "THE BEAST DIE". She always exemplifies intelligence, beauty, sensuality, and sophistication. Great sense of humor, too. Hope she realizes what a trailblazer she is.


She was definately stunning. I am gonna check out some of her other movies.

Dennis Leroy Kangalee

Thanks for posting this, Tambay! She is a rare treasure – Ms. Clark – in that she embodies and personifies so many different elements of grace, sensuality, intelligence. A beautiful woman with a mind like a rapier – she easily could have (and should have) been on par with mainstream actresses like Jane Fonda or Jill Clayburgh who were known for their appeal as well as their serious acting abilities…but of course it did not go that way. And instead of visionaries like Gunn or Parks or Van Peebles at the time who were all straddling Hollywood's fence, getting SUPPORT from black producers, etc or anyone interested in producing films that were not exploitation pictures, we willfully dropped the ball and continue to ignore the treasures we have…I agree with Daryl below: there is no excuse for not realizing what Clark had to endure…and yet we continue to participate and uphold all the problems, stereotypes, and ills of Western Cinema's status quo.


Every black filmmaker, actor and actress should read this article, We have so many opportunites today to make things happen for ourself but we continue to believe the hype we can't do for self and let white hollywood control us. you look at what the great actress Marlene Clark went through you have to laugh and shake your head at today's black filmmakers, actors and actresses complaining about the industry when we got the tools and distribution to tell the stories we want to tell but no we are too concerned with being black entertainment chauffers for white hollywood execs laughing all the way to the bank.

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