Pam Grier is an American actress, who came to limelight after starring in numerous blaxploitation films, such as ‘The Big Bird Cage’, ‘Coffy’, ‘Foxy Brown’ and ‘Sheba Baby’. Criticized for her blaxploitation roles, she made a comeback with Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Pam Griet 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.
Her other major films include The Big Doll House (1971), Women in Cages (1971), The Big Bird Cage (1972), Black Mama, White Mama (1973), Scream Blacula Scream (1973), The Arena (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Bucktown (1975), and Friday Foster (1975). She portrayed the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s crime film Jackie Brown (1997).
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.
Grier has stated that she is of mixed ancestry, namely of African American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne heritage. She was raised Roman Catholic and later baptized as a Methodist.