Marlene Clark, best known for her portrayals of Lamont’s girlfriend Janet in the 1970s NBC sitcom Sanford & Son and as Ganja Meda in the 1973 horror film Ganja & Hess, has died.
Demond Wilson, who played Lamont on Sanford & Son, paid tribute to Clark on Twitter, writing “RIP beautiful actress Marlene Clark. . . It was a delight to work with you…,” noting she died on May 18. Wilson listed her age as 73, but that has not been confirmed.
Clark joined Sanford & Son in the comedy’s fifth season in 1976 as a recurring opposite Wilson, remaining through the series’ final season the following year.
Raised in the Harlem section of New York City, Clark was a fashion model before her transition to acting.
Her earliest work began in films in the 1960s including For Love of Ivy opposite Sidney Poitier and Putney Swope in 1969, directed by Robert Downey Sr. She went on to appear in Hal Ashby’s directorial debut The Landlord in 1970. She also appeared opposite Jim Brown and Stella Stevens in Slaughter in 1972. That same year, she also appeared in Night of the Cobra Woman.
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She reunited with The Landlord screenwriter Bill Gunn for his 1973 horror film Ganja & Hess. Her performance was praised by New York Times film critic A.H. Weiler, who wrote, “Miss Clark is an arresting presence as the enamored Ganja. Also, she occasionally invests an unbelievable character with style and humor.”
In a 2011 interview with Temple of Schlock, she described her role as Ganja: “There are so many levels to her personality. She’s such a collection of contradictions. Playing that part was very rewarding.”
Her other film credits include the Bruce Lee film Enter the Dragon (1973), followed by Black Mamba, The Beast Must Die, Switchblade Sisters, The Jezebels and most recently the 1977 film The Baron.
On television, she also guested in series such as Head of the Class, Flamingo Road, Highway to Heaven and Barnaby Jones, among many other credits.