‘Blacula’ actress Vonetta McGee dies at 65

Actress Vonetta McGee, known for roles in several “blaxploitation” films including Blacula and Shaft in Africa, has died at a Berkeley hospital.

McGee, 65, was a fixture at the height of the genre in the 1970s, as described by the Los Angeles Times both then and now:

McGee was described as “one of the busiest and most beautiful black actresses” by Times movie reviewer Kevin Thomas in 1972, the year she appeared opposite Fred Williamson in the black action movie “Hammer,” and had starring roles in the crime-drama “Melinda” and the horror film “Blacula.”

Williamson spoke of the difficulties faced by black actors at the time in breaking out of the “blaxploitation” genre:

“Vonetta McGee was like a lot of actors and actresses at that time, like myself, Jim Brown, Richard Roundtree, Billy Dee Williams and Pam Grier, in that we had more talent than we were allowed to show because everything was perceived as a black project. Once they categorize you, your marketability becomes limited.”

McGee was hospitalized after experiencing cardiac arrest last week. She was on life support for two days before she died Friday. McGee is survived by her mother and three brothers, as well as her husband and son.