RIP Vonetta McGee

Actress Vonetta McGee passed away on July 9.  The cause of death was cardiac arrest.

Vonetta appeared in what many folks called back on the 70’s blaxploitation pictures including Blacula, Shaft in Africa and Hammer. Vonetta also starred in Thomasine and Bushrod, The Eiger Sanction and Detroit 9000.

Vonetta was married to actor Carl Lumbly and she is survived by Carl, their son Brandon, her mother, Alma McGee, three brothers, Donald, Richard and Ronald McGee and a sister, Alma McGee.

Vonetta McGee, Film and TV Actress, Dies at 65
By MARGALIT FOX

Vonetta McGee, a film and television actress originally known for blaxploitation pictures like “Blacula,” “Hammer” and “Shaft in Africa,” died on July 9 in Berkeley, Calif. She was 65 and a Berkeley resident.

The cause was cardiac arrest, said Kelley Nayo, a family spokeswoman.

In “Blacula” (1972), Ms. McGee portrayed the love interest of Mamuwalde (William Marshall), an African prince who, after an ill-fated trip to Transylvania centuries earlier, re-emerges in modern Los Angeles as a member of the thirsty undead.

Reviewing the film in The New York Times, Roger Greenspun called Ms. McGee “just possibly the most beautiful woman currently acting in movies.”

In “Hammer” (1972), Ms. McGee appeared opposite Fred Williamson in the tale of a young black prizefighter. In “Shaft in Africa” (1973), the third installment in the private-eye series starring Richard Roundtree, she played an emir’s daughter.

Ms. McGee’s other films include “The Kremlin Letter” (1970); “Detroit 9000” (1973); “Thomasine & Bushrod” (1974); and “The Eiger Sanction” (1975), directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

Lawrence Vonetta McGee, named for her father, was born in San Francisco on Jan. 14, 1945. While studying pre-law at San Francisco State College, she became involved in community theater. She left college before graduating to pursue an acting career.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, Vonetta McGee wasn’t fond of the term blaxploitation.

McGee was no fan of the “blaxploitation” label that was attached to many of the films featuring black casts in the ’70s.

That label, she told The Times in 1979, was used “like racism, so you don’t have to think of the individual elements, just the whole. If you study propaganda, you understand how this works.”

Although The Times reported that McGee “calls herself one of the lucky graduates of the black-film genre,” she pointed out that there was a difference between someone like Diana Ross and other potentially marketable black actresses.

“She has had the luxury of a studio behind her,” McGee said. “This is where a lot of us fell short. We all needed a certain amount of protection. But we were on our own.”

RIP Vonetta McGee.

One response

  1. RIP – Vonetta McGee, 65, was a Blaxploitation film actress. She co-starred in a Blacula, Hammer and the action thriller Shaft in Africa. And when Blaxploitation films went out of fashion, so did McGee. http://urdead2me.wordpress.com/2010/07/09/rip-vonetta-mcgee/

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