Do You Remember Marki Bey?

Marki Bey is on of the most underrated stars of the 1970s.

Yesterday while searching for a movie to watch on Netflix, I came across the 1970 film, The Landlord.  The film stars Beau Bridges as Elgar, a trust fund kid who buys himself a tenement building in Park Slope, Brooklyn with plans of moving out all the tenants and remodeling the building. However he soon grows fond of the residents and finds himself romancing two women in the process.  The supporting cast includes Joyce Enders as Elgar’s mother, the incomparable Diana Sands as Fanny and Lou Gossett Jr. as her husband Copee.  In an ineffable performance, Pearl Bailey plays Marge, the colorful resident that befriends Elgar and acclimates him to the building (after pulling a gun on him in their first encounter). The cast is rounded out by Marki Bey.

The Landlord, is significant not only for being one of the earliest films about gentrification, but it also marked the film debut of Marki Bey who played Lanie, the biracial dancer who becomes involved with Elgar. Marki Bey gave an impressive debut performance.  She went on to star in two other films before getting her biggest break in 1974.

Marki Bey’s most memorable role came in 1974’s Blaxploitation/Zombie flick Sugar Hill. She played the lead role as Diana “Sugar” Hill, a woman who avenges the death of her boyfriend at the hands of some gangsters by enlisting the help of a voodoo priestess who creates a zombie mob to to do her bidding.  Okay, I know it sounds crazy, but it was the 1970s and the movie is actually entertaining.

Sugar Hill costars Robert Quarry, Don Pedro Colley, Richard Lawson and Zara Cully as Mama Maitresse.Check out the trailer:

After Sugar Hill, Marki Bey went on to costar in the movie Hangup (aka Super Dude) and a series of television spots, including a recurring role on the show Starsky and Hutch as Officer Minnie Kaplan. I found a clip from the series on Youtube:

Marki Bey never achieved the level of success of many of her contemporaries.  She was once quoted as saying: “These days I’m too light to be cast as black and I’m too dark to be cast as white and I’ll be darned if I’m going out and buy one of those Afro wigs. When I auditioned for ‘Purlie’ they said I was too light. People will hire you today if you look like you just stepped off a slave ship, but my family’s just been here too long for that.” By the end of the 1970’s, Marki Bey had left the acting world. Her last role was a guest spot on Trapper John, MD in 1979.  Marki Bey made a rare public appearance in 2008 at  a NYC screening of The Landlord presented by John Singleton as part of the AFI Series.

Although her acting career spanned for less than a decade, Marki Bey’s performances are memorable and solidify her spot in cinematic history.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Do You Remember Marki Bey?

  1. I just saw the Sugar hill movie stared Marki Bey. She was a sexy lady I’m sorry she didn’t get her big chance, like Pam Grier,but she was very sexy to look at.

    1. Thanks for your comment Charles! I agree that Marki is both talented and beautiful. She should have been a bigger star and household name.

  2. Watching Sugar Hill right now. Marki carries the movie beautifully.
    Just finished watching The Eiger Sanction, which features the woefully undersung Vonetta McKee, who just sparkles as Jemima Baker, a wonderful foil to Clint Eastwood’s flinty lead.

    Didn’t know much about Ms. Bey before now and scrambling to get some biographical information. But can’t help lamenting the accident of timing that left her and McKee stranded just short of the kind of stardom that’s possible for a black actress today. I wish Ms. Bey well.

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