December 19, 1949 |
New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Billy Dee Williams (1968–1971, divorced)|
Marlene Clark (born December 19, 1949) is an American actress who has appeared on a number of television shows and films from 1968 to 1988. She is probably best known for her titular role in the 1973 horror film Ganja & Hess and as Lamont Sanford's fiancee Janet Lawson in the 70s sitcom Sanford and Son.
Modeling and 1960s in film
Clark first reached the public eye as a model for various New York magazines and newspapers during the late 1960s. Clark noted her experiences as a model as “a wonderful time, because more and more opportunities like that were opening up for black women.” These gigs led to Clark getting offered bit parts in films made in the late 1960s like For Love of Ivy (1968) with Sidney Poitier, the Academy Award for Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy (1969) with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight, and most notably Putney Swope (1969) which was directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
1970s in film
Clark landed another small part in Hal Ashby's directorial debut, The Landlord (1970). After Bill Gunn, the screenwriter of The Landlord, saw her in the film, he cast her in his unreleased directorial debut, Stop, which was shelved by Warner Bros. Clark then landed a part in Beware! The Blob (1972) a comedy horror film directed by Larry Hagman that served as the sequel of the horror science-fiction film, The Blob. 
Clark also had a small but memorable role as John Saxon’s secretary in the 1973 martial arts film Enter the Dragon, with Bruce Lee. She also reunited with Gunn again in Ganja & Hess (1973). “I loved working with Bill (Gunn) because he was so imaginative, creative and totally committed to the material...Ganja & Hess was his dream, his vision, and there wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do to make it work. And in the process, he brought people together. Film crews had been traditionally all-white, yet here was a crew that was totally mixed -- and their devotion to Bill, and to what he was trying to say, was really quite impressive.” The film also starred Duane Jones of Night of the Living Dead fame, whom Clark described as "a treat to work with. He did a terrific job."
Clark also appeared in the horror film The Beast Must Die (1974), with Calvin Lockhart, Michael Gambon and Peter Cushing. "I was in London for six weeks on that film," Clark says, "and it was a great time. They treat actors very differently in England. They have enormous respect for them. Even the chairs for the extras have 'artist' printed on the back!...The first day I was on the set, Peter Cushing came over to me, and he was holding something behind his back...It was a nosegay! He gave me a nosegay to welcome me to the film, and to England. It was such a wonderful gesture. He really was a gentleman."
Sanford and Son and television
In television, she is mostly known for portraying Janet Lawson, the fiancee of Lamont Sanford (Demond Wilson) in the 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son. Clark joined the cast during the fall of 1976 and the show presented Clark in a rare opportunity to exercise her comedic skills. "That was so much fun," Clark said of her one-season stint on Sanford and Son. "I mean, how could you be around Redd Foxx and not have fun? He had us laughing all the time."
She has made guest appearances in Bonanza, The Bill Cosby Show, The Immortal, Marcus Welby, M.D., The Rookies, McCloud and several episodes of The Mod Squad. More TV appearances followed in What's Happening!! and Barnaby Jones.
Clark appeared on stage in Richard Reich’s Pets.
- For Love of Ivy (1968)
- Midnight Cowboy (1969)
- Putney Swope (1969)
- The Landlord (1970)
- Clay Pigeon (1971)
- Beware! The Blob (1972)
- Night of the Cobra Woman (1972)
- Slaughter (1972)
- Enter the Dragon (1973)
- Ganja & Hess (1973)
- Black Mamba (1974)
- The Beast Must Die (1974)
- Newman's Law (1974)
- Switchblade Sisters (1975)
- Poggiali, Chris (20 January 2011). "Slinking Through the Seventies: An Interview with Marlene Clark". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
- Pierce, Ponchitta (April 1974). "A Look Into The Private Life of Billy Dee Williams". Ebony. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
- Sergio (4 April 2014). "Bill Gunn’s Controversial And Rarely Seen Film ‘Stop’ To Finally See The Light Of Day (Once Some Minor Problems Are Cleared)". Retrieved 9 January 2015.
- Obenson, Tambay A. (24 July 2014). "A Trip Down Memory Lane w/ 1970s Actress Marlene Clark ('Ganja & Hess')". Retrieved 9 January 2015.