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May 26, 2023

The Original Foxy Brown: A Beautiful Pam Grier Photographed by Harry Langdon in the 1970s

Pam Grier is the beautiful Black actress who burst onto screens everywhere during the 1970s. Grier is the undisputed queen of blaxploitation films, and she has been celebrated for her beauty and raw sex appeal for decades. She’s also a kind-hearted, free-spirited Coloradan with a passion for clean eating, animals and nature.

Pamela Suzette Grier was born on May 26, 1949 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Her mother was a nurse and her father was in the U.S. Air Force. Because of her father’s military status, the family moved around often, but she they eventually made their home in Denver, Colorado. Grier said she is of mixed ancestry, namely of African American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne heritage.

Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP). She is believed to have been discovered by the director Jack Hill, and was cast in Roger Corman women-in-prison films such as The Big Doll House (1971), Women in Cages (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation films, playing bold, assertive women, beginning with 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 men. 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. Below are some stunning portraits of Pam Grier in the 1970s taken by photographer Harry Langdon:


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