Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
The reigning queen of the 1970s blaxploitation genre, Pam Grier was born May 26, 1949, in Winston-Salem, NC. An Air Force mechanic's daughter, she was raised on military bases in England and Germany. During her teen years the family settled in Denver, CO, where at the age of 18, Grier entered the Miss Colorado Universe pageant. Named first runner-up, she attracted the attention of Hollywood agent David Baumgarten, who signed her to a contract. After relocating to Los Angeles, Grier struggled to mount an acting career, and worked as a switchboard operator at the studios of Roger Corman's American International Pictures. Finally, with Corman's aid, she made her film debut in the 1970 Russ Meyer cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, followed by an appearance in Jack Hill's 1971 cheapie The Big Doll House.
For several years, Grier languished virtually unnoticed in grindhouse fare like 1971's Women in Cages and 1973's Arena (aka Naked Warriors) before winning the title role in Hill's 1973 action outing Coffy. Playing a nurse seeking vengeance against the drug dealers responsible for her sister's descent into heroin addiction, Grier immediately rose to the forefront of the so-called "blaxploitation" genre, a group of action-adventure films aimed squarely at African-American audiences. Portraying the 1974 superheroine Foxy Brown, she became a major cult figure, as her character's fierce independence, no-nonsense attitude, and empowered spirit made her a role model for blacks and feminists alike. At the peak of her popularity, Grier even appeared on the covers of Ms. and New York magazines. Her films' often racy content also made her a sex symbol, and additionally she posed nude for the men's magazine Players.